Kevin Gover: Undaunted Director at Indian Museum

Historians in the News

It was not exactly a welcome mat that greeted the new museum director. When Kevin Gover left his quiet life teaching American Indian law among the cactuses of Arizona to lead the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian here, he arrived during a storm of publicity about spending by his predecessor, W. Richard West Jr.

But in his first in-depth interview since settling into his new office, Mr. Gover, 52, seemed unconcerned about the scrutiny he might now encounter about his own spending habits, or about the long-term effects on the museum.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said last week. “I took a few poundings in the past.”

Spending by Mr. West, the institution’s founding director, who retired last month after 17 years, has provoked two senators to call for independent investigations. Mr. West spent more than $250,000 on travel and hotels during his final four years in office and paid $48,500 to a New York artist to paint his museum portrait.

“I felt bad for Rick,” said Mr. Gover, who practiced in two of the same law firms as Mr. West. “I felt that it was unfair.”

The Smithsonian said in December that all of Mr. West’s travel had been approved and that he had raised $51 million in that period. In a Jan. 11 letter to Indian Country Today, a weekly newspaper, Mr. West disputed reports first published in The Washington Post, calling them mischaracterizations of travel that was within the scope of his duties. "I traveled as required by the job I had to do," he wrote....

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