Strengthening Native American Communities & Economies
Member of the Board Emeritus - In Memoriam
(Note: First Nations mourns David Lester’s passing in December 2012.)
David Lester served as the executive director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), based in Denver, Colorado, beginning in 1982. Under the direction of the elected leadership of the 54 federally recognized U.S. tribes and four First Nation Treaty Tribes of Canada, CERT dramatically restructured the federal-Indian relationship with respect to minerals, mining, taxation and tribal jurisdiction over environmental regulation on Indian lands.
Prior to joining CERT, Mr. Lester served as the Commissioner for Native Americans in the Department of Health and Human Services, a position to which he was first appointed under President Carter in 1978 and later re-appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1980. While at the Administration for Native Americans, he restructured its program from core administrative support of welfare services to Indians into a development agency.
In 1970, Mr. Lester became the first president of the United Indian Development Association in Los Angeles, the predecessor organization to the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1967 with a degree in political science. Mr. Lester was married to Millie Chestnut, a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, and had a son and a daughter.