First Native Woman To Lead Smithsonian Museum is Cynthia Chavez Lamar

Photo: Smithsonian

Cynthia Chavez Lamar is an inspiring woman who has been approached by the Smithsonian Institution to be their next director. Her work with one of America’s largest collections in Native American and Indigenous pieces makes her perfect for this position.

The institution said Wednesday that Lamar is the first ever Native woman to work as a Smithsonian museum director. 

The current acting associate director for collections and operations of the museum, Chavez Lamar is thrilled to work with already established staff. 

“Together, we will leverage the museum’s reputation to support shared initiatives with partners in the U.S. and around the world to amplify Indigenous knowledge and perspectives all in the interest of further informing the American public and international audiences of the beauty, tenacity and richness of Indigenous cultures, arts and histories,” said Lamar. 

The upcoming director’s matriarchal lineage includes Hopi, Tewa, and Navajo. She is also an enrolled member at San Felipe Pueblo. 

Chavez Lamar will become the third director of the National Museum of the American Indian. She is succeeding Kevin Gover who served as director from 2007 to 2021, who is a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe. Before him came W. Richard West Jr. who became the founding director of the museum in 1990 and is a Southern Cheyenne. 

Chavez Lamar’s first placement was in the museum as an apprentice. She later worked in the early 2000s on staff as a curator, before returning again recently to take up her post today. 

Chavez Lamar also formerly worked as director of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.  The National Museum of the American Indian, the George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Md, these are among the facilities she will supervise in her new position.


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