Kevin Gover | (Re)Making History: The Real Story Is Bigger and Better

Americans have been taught a shallow and simple narrative of the history of Native Americans and the history of our country. Shallow narratives are satisfying and allow us to feel good about our history as a nation, but they can cause our approach to contemporary issues to be uninformed and even misinformed. Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, discusses how we must fearlessly embrace the larger, messier, more complex truths of our history.

Kevin Gover is the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian. The Office of the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture oversees the Institution’s history and art museums, its cultural centers, and the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Exhibits and the National Collections Program. He had served as director of the National Museum of the American Indian from 2007 until January 2021.

Gover is a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. He received his bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and his Juris Doctor degree in 1981 from the University of New Mexico College of Law.

Gover returned to New Mexico in 1986, where he established Gover, Stetson, Williams & West, P.C., which grew into the largest Indian-owned law firm in the country and represented tribes and tribal agencies in a dozen states. His advocacy brought him to the attention of the Clinton White House, and in 1997, Gover was nominated by President Clinton to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the United States Department of the Interior. 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.

Upon leaving office, Gover resumed the practice of law and served on the faculty of Arizona State University’s Indian Legal Program. Throughout his professional career, Gover has given freely of his time, serving on several committees of the Federal Bar Association and the American Bar Association, as well as on a number of non-profit boards.