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Former IAIA Trustee Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar Named Director of the National Museum of the American Indian

Jan 21, 2022

Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar

Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar

On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) announced that former Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Trustee Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar will assume the director position on February 14. As director of NMAI, Dr. Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo/Hopi/Tewa/Navajo) will be the first Indigenous woman in a museum director position in Smithsonian’s history. In the New York Times article, Smithsonian Names New Leader of National Museum of the American Indian, Dr. Chavez Lamar said, “I’ve endeavored to connect Native and Indigenous peoples to the collection. Moving forward, that is something that I think is particularly important for the National Museum of the American Indian.” Dr. Chavez Lamar will oversee the museum’s three facilities—the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in Lower Manhattan, and the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland.

The United States Senate voted on June 22, 2010, to confirm the nomination of Dr. Chavez Lamar to serve on the IAIA Board of Trustees. Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar served as an IAIA Trustee from 2011–2017 and helped advance IAIA’s mission and initiatives while working closely with her colleagues.

IAIA Board of Trustees’ Chair Loren Kieve (Cherokee) remarked, “This is a spectacular choice. Cynthia was a great asset to IAIA when she served as a member of our board of trustees. The Smithsonian is fortunate to have someone with her talents and insights into Native American art and culture. We at IAIA look forward to continuing our close collaboration with NMAI under Cynthia’s leadership.”

In NMAI’s press release, Dr. Chavez Lamar said, “I am excited to begin my tenure as the director of NMAI, and I am looking forward to leading and working with the museum’s experienced and dedicated staff. Together, we will leverage the museum’s reputation to support shared initiatives with partners in the US 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.” Dr. Chavez Lamar oversees the museum’s collections, facilities, safety, and information technology departments. According to the Smithsonian’s press release, she leads efforts to ensure effective management and care for the museum’s collection, composed of more than one million objects and photographs and more than 500,000 digitized images, films, and other media documenting Native communities, events, and organizations.

For more information about Dr. Chavez Lamar’s appointment, read Sarah Bahr’s New York Times article, Smithsonian Names New Leader of National Museum of the American Indian and NMAI’s press release “Cynthia Chavez Lamar Named Director of the National Museum of the American Indian.”

About the IAIA Board of Trustees

In 1986 the United States Congress established the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development (IAIA), making IAIA one of only three Congressionally chartered colleges. The President of the United States appoints IAIA trustees. The President of IAIA is a board member ex officio, as is the president of the IAIA Associated Student Government (ASG). IAIA is under the direction and control of the Board of Trustees, which has ultimate authority to make and approve policy, appoint the President of IAIA, and make rules and procedures as it deems necessary.

Learn more about IAIA Trustees and read their biographies.