Edgar Villanueva is a left-of-center activist, author and nonprofit executive who is the founder and principal of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, a far-left community organizing group that funds advocacy by activist groups, especially those associated with Native American communities and the Black Lives Matter movement. Villanueva founded the Project in 2019 after the 2018 publication of his book, Decolonizing Wealth, Second Edition: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, in which Villanueva attacked the $1 trillion philanthropic community as one that “mirrors oppressive colonial behavior” and reflects “racist colonial dynamics.” Villanueva has also contributed to far-left publications, including Common Dreams and Advocate.
Villanueva is or has been affiliated with several left-of-center institutions through employment or board memberships, including the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Mother Jones, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation.
Background and Early Career
Edgar Villanueva is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Nation, a Native American tribe. He attended the Jackson College of Ministries where he studied theology and later earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
After graduate school, Villanueva worked for the American Social Health Association and the American Institutes for Research, where he was a federal government contractor for the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2005, he pivoted to working in philanthropy as a senior program officer for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, for which he managed a grantmaking portfolio totaling $24 million. In 2001, he became the executive director of the North Carolina American Indian Health Board at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. In 2012, he worked for the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO), a university-led collaborative focused on southeastern North Carolina.
In 2013, Villanueva joined the staff of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, where he led the national and Midwest portfolios for the large left-of-center grantmaking organization. While at the Casey Foundation, Villanueva helped administer more than $30 million in grants and represented the foundation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise Initiative and the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Fund Leadership Council. 
From 2015 to 2021, Villanueva was senior vice president at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, where he oversaw its “social justice” grantmaking in the form of $3 million given annually to public schools and other educational organizations.
In 2011, Edgar Villanueva founded Leverage Philanthropic Partners, a consulting firm that offers fundraising and donor advising and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting. The firm’s clients have included Movement for Black Lives, the Satterberg Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, The Children’s Partnership, National Center for Family Philanthropy, Bush Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Decolonizing Wealth Project
As the founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, Villanueva claims that the “trauma” of colonialism was “not just for the community that was colonized but for the colonizers,” who “broke ties with their lands of origin, to their cultures to subscribe to the narrative of the American Dream.” Villanueva also claims that “colonization is all about dividing and controlling people” and that “money has been a tool to separate and cause hurt in our communities.” Because of this, Villanueva claims that philanthropic organizations should “use money to facilitate power” and “liberate people” who have been “exploited by the system.” Villanueva has decried the United States and the notion of the American dream, claiming that “all our systems and institutions” are “infected with this colonizer virus” and describing “institutions that control wealth” as “inherently broken.” 
In his book on “decolonizing wealth,” Villanueva alleges that “the philanthropic industry has evolved to mirror colonial structures” and demands that grantmaking organizations divert more resources to groups outside the philanthropic establishment, especially those that employ or emphasize members of racial minority groups. 
The Decolonizing Wealth Project is fiscally sponsored by Allied Media Projects and operates several campaigns including Liberated Capital, a large grant distribution effort, and the Indigenous Earth Fund, which plans to give $1 million to native American-led organizations to advocate for left-of-center environmental policies.  
[/note] In 2019, Villanueva announced the creation of Liberated Capital, a fund to support left-of-center indigenous and ethnic minority activists based on a “reparations model” that acknowledges “the pain caused by the accumulation of wealth.”  Villanueva claimed to have provided more than $2.1 million in capital to left-of-center activist organizations in 2020, though the Liberated Capital page on the Decolonizing Wealth Project website has since become inactive.  
Villanueva supports financial reparations by the United States government to the descendants of slaves and displaced Native Americans. Decolonizing Wealth Project has established a #Case4Reparations campaign as part of its larger Liberated Capital campaign that contends that the “United States was built on a history and practice of enslavement, genocide, and extraction of and from Indigenous peoples and African descendants—resulting in more than 400 years of policies and practices that have fueled economic extraction and systemic violence in Indigenous and Black communities.”
In October 2020, Villanueva wrote an article for the far-left blog Common Dreams that called for replacing Columbus Day with a new holiday that would be called “Indigenous People’s Day.” Villanueva wrote that “the holiday is a monument to white supremacy” that celebrates “America’s violent, centuries-long history of colonialism and racism.” 
Edgar Villanueva is or has been a board member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Mother Jones, and NDN Collective. He is also the chair of the board for Native Americans in Philanthropy, a left-of-center funding collaborative that promotes reciprocity in giving towards Native American institutions.
Villanueva has previously sat on the boards of the Andrus Family Fund, National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, AIDS Care Service, the North Carolina Community AIDS Fund, Youth Empowered Solutions, Fund the People, the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health Foundation, and NC Gives. He also was appointed by former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue (D) to the Governor’s Task Force for Healthy Carolinians. He also served on the board of visitors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2013 to 2017.
In November 2020, Villanueva wrote an article for the LGBT activist publication Advocate attacking traditional ideas of gender, which he labeled as “toxic masculinity.” Villanueva criticized then-President Donald Trump and then-U.S. Representative-elect Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) for allegedly racist and sexist statements. The article also criticized “white men who almost put Trump back in office.” 
In January 2021, Villanueva demanded the creation of a “truth and reconciliation commission” modeled after those created to investigate the abuses of the former apartheid regime in South Africa to address what he called “the virus of colonization and white supremacy” in the United States. He also said that Americans needs to “get serious” about providing race-based reparations.