Kevin Gover is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Since he began as director in 2007, the museum has opened four critically acclaimed exhibitions: “Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian,” an exhibition that opened concurrently in Washington, D.C., and New York in 2008, the largest retrospective ever of the seminal 20th-century modern painter and sculptor; in October 2009, the museum opened its first solo exhibition of a living artist, “Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort,” a major exhibition of the prominent Canadian artist (Dunne-za First Nations/Swiss-Canadian); the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York opened “Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian,” a permanent exhibition of 700 works in October 2010; “A Song for the Horse Nation” opened in October 2011 and featured objects presenting the epic story of the horse’s influence on America Indian tribes. The museum’s Collections Search was launched online to provide digital access to the museum’s objects and photographs and, most recently, the museum opened the imagiNATIONS Activity Center providing a dynamic space for young visitors. and “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” which opened at the museum’s Washington, D.C. location in 2014.
Gover served as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1997 to 2000 under President Bill Clinton where he won praise for his efforts to rebuild long-neglected Indian schools and expand tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs police forces throughout the country. His tenure as Assistant Secretary is perhaps best-known for his apology to Native American people for the historical conduct of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
After leaving office in 2000, Gover practiced law at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington. In 2003, he joined the faculty at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and served on the faculty of the university’s Indian Legal Program, one of the largest such programs in the country.
His legal career began in 1983 at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Kampelman in Washington, and in 1986, he founded Gover, Stetson & Williams in Albuquerque, N.M. His practice areas included federal Indian law, commercial transactions, environmental and administrative law, and legislative affairs.
In addition to his professional work, Gover has served on several boards and committees, including the Federal Bar Association and the American Bar Association, the Southwestern Association for Indian Art, Futures for Children, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas and the Salt River Development Co., an enterprise of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Gover received his bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and his juris doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Princeton in 2001.
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