Richard West is director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
His work as an attorney has fostered the continuation of the arts and
protected the cultural traditions of Indian peoples. As founding director
of the National Museum of the American Indian, he has assured that the
arts of Indian peoples enjoy equal status among the cultural assets
of the world.
A citizen of the Cheyenne
and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne,
West has devoted his professional life and much of his
personal life to working with American Indians on cultural, educational,
legal and governmental issues.
Before becoming director
of the National Museum of the American Indian, West was a partner in
the Washington, D.C., office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &
Jacobson, and, subsequently, in the Indian-owned Albuquerque law firm
of Gover, Stetson, Williams & West, P.C. He served as general counsel
and special counsel to numerous tribes 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: Stanford University (2002-
present); National Parks and Conservation Association (2002-present);
Ford Foundation (1999-present); National Support Committee of the Native
American Rights Fund (1990-present) and American Indian Resources Institute
He served as chair of the
American Association of Museums, the nation's only national
membership organization representing all types of museums and museum
professionals, from 1998-2000. From 1992-1995 and 1997-1998, 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 currently is vice chair
of the American Association of Museums/International Council of Museums,
which represents the interests of American institutions in the international
As director of the National
Museum of the American Indian, West is responsible for
guiding the successful opening of the three facilities that will comprise
the National Museum of the American Indian. He oversaw the creation
and completion of the George Gustav Heye Center, the museum's exhibition
facility, which opened in New York City on Oct. 30, 1994. He supervised
the overall planning of the museum's Cultural Resources Center, which
houses its vast 800,000-object collection, and is located in Suitland,
Md. West's philosophy and vision for the museum have been critical in
guiding the architectural and program planning of the Mall museum, which
opened on the National Mall in Washington on Sept. 21.
West also devotes considerable
time and energy to the museum's fund-raising efforts. As
part of the legislation establishing the Museum, it was mandated by
Congress that one-third of the construction costs of the Mall museum
be raised from non-federal sources. To date, the museum has raised more
than $100 million in non-federal funds for construction and the opening
of the museum. West continues to oversee the fund-raising campaign of
the museum, which also will provide for an endowment and ongoing educational
and outreach programs.
West, who grew up in Muskogee,
Okla., was born in San Bernardino, Calif., on Jan. 6,
1943, the son of American Indian master artist, the late Walter Richard
West Sr., and Maribelle McCrea West. He earned a bachelor of arts 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 doctor
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. West is married
to the former Mary Beth Braden, who is a professor of political science
at the National Defense University, Industrial College of the Armed
Forces. They have two adult children, Amy and Ben.