Kevin Gover, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, has been chosen to be director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
The museum made the announcement this week, saying Gover’s appointment will be effective Dec. 2. “We’re delighted that Kevin Gover will lead the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in the next phase of its service to the public,” said CristiÃ¡n Samper, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian. “Mr. Gover’s extensive experience in Washington and with Indian communities, his deep interest in and knowledge of Indian history and culture and his commitment to bringing the vast resources of the National Museum of the American Indian to the broadest possible audience will enable him to provide strong and effective leadership to the museum.”
Gover said he was deeply honored by the appointment. “The museum’s mission of educating the public about living Native cultures is an important and challenging one, and I am grateful for the opportunity to build upon the strong foundation created by the museum’s founding director, Rick West,” Gover said. Gover thanked ASU President, Dr. Michael Crow, and Patricia White, Dean of the College of Law, for their support. “I’m grateful that I will maintain an association with ASU and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law,” he said. “I will miss my colleagues and students at Arizona State University and my many friends from the Indian nations of Arizona, but I do look forward to serving in a new capacity.”
White said Gover will remain a professor at the law school on leave for the duration of his time at the museum. “The Smithsonian has made a magnificent appointment,” White said. “Kevin Gover is a man of rare talent and integrity. His knowledge of Indian affairs and policy is unmatched, and his interpersonal skills are truly wonderful. “We are proud to have him on our faculty and selfishly wish that he were not taking leave to take on this important post.” White said the College remains committed to maintaining the leading Indian Legal Program in the country and will seek new talent to fill the space left by Gover’s departure.
Rebecca Tsosie, Executive Director of the Indian Legal Program, said Gover is the ideal person to serve as the museum’s next director. “He has the knowledge and skills to lead this important institution, and to work collaboratively with policymakers and tribal leaders on the next phase of the Museum’s development,” Tsosie said. “The entire Nation will benefit from Professor Gover’s leadership, and therefore I am very supportive of Professor Gover’s decision to assume this important position. “Of course, at a personal level, those of us who worked closely with Professor Gover will miss having his daily presence at the law school, and his ever-present wisdom, practical genius, and sense of humor.” Tsosie said the faculty, students and staff of the Indian Legal Program, as well as the larger ASU community, have benefited from Gover’s leadership, knowledge and expertise, as well as his energy and commitment to serve Native communities “Professor Gover developed new offerings for the law school curriculum and worked in collaboration with Dr. Eddie Brown and other faculty to establish the interdisciplinary American Indian Policy Institute,” she said. “He is an extraordinarily popular professor and a valued member of the law faculty. We are very proud and honored that Professor Gover intends to keep his affiliation with ASU and the Indian Legal Program, and we foresee many benefits from the partnership with NMAI that we are currently contemplating.”
Kathlene Rosier, director of the Indian Legal Program, said Gover will continue to teach intersession and abbreviated courses as his time permits and will help support ASU students working and interning in Washington, D.C. “We hope to have him back as much as possible,” Rosier said. “Of course we are saddened to see Kevin leave and know that the students will miss seeing him on a day-to-day basis, but I know this will open up wonderful opportunities to collaborate down the road.”
Gover joined the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in 2003 and teaches federal Indian law, administrative law and statutory interpretation. He is also an affiliate professor in ASU’s American Indian Studies Program and co-executive director of the university’s American Indian Policy Institute.
Gover, 52, grew up in Oklahoma and is a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He earned his bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University and his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Princeton University in 2001. Gover also practiced law for more than 15 years in Albuquerque, N.M., and Washington, D.C. His legal career began in 1983 at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Kampelman in Washington. In 1986, he moved to Albuquerque and founded Gover, Stetson & Williams (1986-1997). His last stint in law practice was with the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson (2001-2003). His practice areas included federal Indian law, commercial transactions, environmental and administrative law, and legislative affairs.
He currently serves as associate judge on the Tonto Apache Tribal Court of Appeals and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Court of Appeals. He is a member of the board of trustees of the nonprofit Grand Canyon Trust in Flagstaff, and of the board of directors of the nonprofit Futures for Children in Albuquerque. Gover served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs from 1997 to 2000, where he was responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the agency responsible for the federal government’s relations with Indian tribes. He oversaw programs in Indian education, law enforcement, social services, treaty rights and trust asset management. During that time, Gover concentrated on upgrading Indian law enforcement, rebuilding decrepit Indian schools, reforming trust services and overhauling the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ management systems. His reform efforts, coupled with an eloquent apology to the nation’s Indian communities for the history of wrongs done to them by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, won him wide approval in Indian country and Congressional praise.
Established in 1989, through an Act of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The museum includes the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall; the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in lower Manhattan; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Md.