Smithsonian Museum Director Speaks at GW about Native American History and Policymaking

Kevin Gover speaks at GW, sitting at a table, white shirt, black vest, glasses
Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, speaks at GW about his career and teaching Native American history. Media Credit: Jack Fonesca | Contributing Photo Editor for The GW Hatchet.
June 07, 2019

Kevin Gover, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), discussed his career and problems with the way Native American history is taught at a lecture in late April. His presentation was the keynote lecture of the Indigenous America University Seminar, a programming initiative led by Dr. Elizbeth Rule, assistant director for the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics & Policy (AT&T CIPP).

"We are delighted to have a thought leader for Indian Country like Kevin Gover on campus to discuss the power of education, accurate representations and rising public awareness of indigenous peoples and cultures, as well as how all of these factors contribute to the current state of Native affairs,” said Dr. Rule.  “As an interdisciplinary group of scholars and professionals, it is great to see education, policy, culture and research placed into conversation.”

This event was organized by AT&T CIPP under the auspices of the Indigenous America University Seminar, a year-long, grant-based programming initiative made possible with the support of the GW Office of the Provost, that connects GW faculty with D.C. professionals around issues of importance to Indian Country.

Gover, director of NMAI since 2007, is a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and the former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. His discussion included an emphasis on what has been taught about Native American history in the past vs. what should be taught going forward. There are increasingly more members of the American public recognizing the history they learned was taught as a series of events involving “important white men” and told through those skewed lenses of history.

“There is no important story in American history that cannot be told through Native eyes,” said Gover.

One of the Smithsonian initiatives, Native Knowledge 360°, works to inspire and promote improvement of teaching and learning about American Indians by exposing falsehoods taught about Native American history and reshaping their knowledge.

AT&T CIPP’s Indigenous America University Seminar is also looking to actively change perceptions and share experiences. It launched its flagship project, IndigeTalk, a new, digital learning initiative to increase understanding of indigenous issues, on May 1. It is a digital learning platform composed of a series of videos on the topics of education and history, arts and culture, and politics and policy. IndigeTalk serves as a public-facing digital repository for learning about the latest research, events and issues affecting Indian Country, with curated content contributed by professionals, tribal community members, scholars and activists. To learn more or if you would like to contribute content, please visit

Elizabeth Rule and Kevin Gover
Dr. Elizbeth Rule (left), assistant director for the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics & Policy (AT&T CIPP), with Kevin Gover, director, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Read the full coverage of Kevin Gover’s talk in The GW Hatchet