Museums and Native America in the 21st Century: Journeys in Interpretation
W. Richard West, Jr.
President and CEO
Autry National Center, Los Angeles
Time and Location
Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015
Time: 6 PM
Place: Hager Auditorium, Museum of the Rockies
About the speaker
W. Richard West, Jr., a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, is the president and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. West retired at the end of 2007 from the position of founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. West has devoted his professional life and much of his personal life to working with American Indians on cultural, educational, legal, and governmental issues.
West also served as the Interim Director of The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. It is a specialty arts institution with internationally renowned textiles collections primarily from Latin America, the Middle East, Asia Minor, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Before becoming director of the National Museum of the American Indian, West practiced law at the Indian-owned Albuquerque, New Mexico, law firm of Gover, Stetson, Williams & West, P.C. (1988 to 1990). He also was an associate attorney and then partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson (1973 to 1988).
He served as general counsel and special counsel to numerous American Indian tribes, communities, and organizations. In that capacity, he represented clients before federal, state and tribal courts, various executive departments of the federal government, and the Congress.
West's current board affiliations and memberships include: Kaiser Family Foundation (2007 to present); International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (2007 to present); Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (2011 to present); Center for Native American Youth (2011 to present); National Support Committee of the Native American Rights Fund (1990 to present); and American Indian Resources Institute (1973 to present). He previously also has served on the boards of trustees of the Ford Foundation and Stanford University.
He served as chair of the board for the American Association of Museums, the nation's only national membership organization representing all types of museums and museum professionals, from 1998-2000. From 1992 to 1995 and 1997 to 1998, he served as member-at-large of the association's board of directors and in 1995-1996 as vice chair of the board of directors. West also was a member-at-large (2004 to 2007) and Vice President (2007 to 2010) of the International Council of Museums.
As director of the National Museum of the American Indian from 1990 through 2007, West was responsible for guiding the successful opening of the three facilities that comprise the National Museum of the American Indian. He oversaw the creation and completion of the George Gustav Heye Center, a museum exhibition facility that opened in New York City on October 30, 1994. He supervised the overall planning of the museum's Cultural Resources Center, which houses its vast 800,000-object collections, and is located in Suitland, Maryland. West's philosophy and vision for the museum were critical in guiding the architectural and program planning of the Mall museum, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 2004.
West, who grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of American Indian master artist, the late Walter Richard West Sr., and Maribelle McCrea West. He earned a bachelor's degree (major in American history) magna cum laude in 1965 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Redlands in California. He also received a master's degree in American history from Harvard University in 1968. West graduated from the Stanford University School of Law with a doctorate of jurisprudence degree in 1971, where he also was the recipient of the Hilmer Oehlmann Jr. Prize for excellence in legal writing and served as an editor and note editor of the Stanford Law Review.