Agency history, 1990-

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  • West, W. Richard
  • Gover, Kevin 1955-
  • Monenerkit, Machel
  • Chavez Lamar, Cynthia
  • Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Pub. L. 101-185, Sec. 6, 103 Stat. 1339.) Nov. 28, 1989
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Press Release, W. Richard West Jr., Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, December 2007,, accessed March 29, 2022
  • Smithsonian Instituion, About, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture, Kevin Gover,, accessed March 29, 2022
  • In 1989 the U. S. Congress established the National Museum of the American Indian, including, but not limited to, the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. Under the terms of the legislation the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution was empowered to appoint a Director who, subject to the policies of the Board of Trustees of the Musuem, shall manage the National Museum of the American Indian. In 1990 W. Richard West was appointed Director, serving 1990-2007. A citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, West practiced law at an Indian-owned law firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico before becoming director of the museum. Kevin Gover served as Director, 2007-2021. Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, was on the faculty at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and served on the faculty of its Indian Legal Program as well as served as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Machel Monenerkit was acting director from February 2021 to February 2022. Before serving as acting director, Monenerkit was the museum's deputy director. Cynthia Chavez Lamar was appointed Director in January 2022 and began her tenure in February 2022. Lamar is an enrolled member at San Felipe Pueblo, and her ancestry also includes Hopi, Tewa and Navajo. She is the first Native woman to be named as a Smithsonian museum director. She was most recently the acting associate director for collections and operations at the museum and was also an associate curator.
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of" above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1990
  • 1990-


  • Historians
  • Museums
  • Indians of North America--Museums
  • Museum directors


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00400

Full Record

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