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November 26, 2010

StoryCorps Interview with NMAI's Kevin Gover (Pawnee)

This week the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has shared the stories of five Native staffers as part of American Indian Heritage Day and the StoryCorps’ 2010 National Day of Listening. Today—Friday, Nov. 26—we celebrate both of these holidays and encourage you and your loved ones to join us by, quite simply, sharing stories with one another.

Gover-post2 Our final interview features the museum’s director, Kevin Gover (Pawnee). Before joining NMAI in 2007, Gover was a professor of law at Arizona State University. From 1997 to 2000, he served as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, overseeing programs in Indian education, law enforcement, social services and treaty rights.

He grew up near Lawton, Okla., where his parents worked as civil-rights activists in the 1960s and '70s.

“This museum is really attempting to redefine a number of things. In particular and most importantly, it’s trying to redefine how Indians are represented in the museum world, and establishing a requirement that in order to represent these communities properly the community has to be deeply involved in the development of any sort of content," Gover said during his conversation with Rachael Cassidy (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), NMAI Cultural Interpreter.

"And we can look out the window right here at the Capitol of the United States, and you realize its symbolic importance. This great stone edifice really, to me, stands for the proposition that Indians are still here, and we’re here to stay.”

On growing up in Comanche County, Oklahoma:

 Gover-Childhood (Click to Play)

EXCERPT: “I suppose my best memory was actually being at my grandmother and grandfather’s farm in Faxon, Oklahoma. It seemed like a carefree place to a child, and there were a million things to get in trouble over when you’re out on that much land with that many animals and that much farm equipment and, so, we did.”

On the biggest in influences in his life:

Gover-Biggest Influence (Click to Play)

EXCERPT: From my parents, the real lasting lesson was to accept people for who they are and to just never, ever judge somebody else because of the color of their skin or their economic background or their gender or religion or any of the other dozens and hundreds of ways we try to separate ourselves from other people. And they were insistent about that. For all their failings, that was something they drove home. That, and I suppose the idea of achieving to the limits of your potential. You know, the achievement part can be a bad thing if you become obsessed with achievement for your own sake. On the other hand, to strive for a cause is a good thing. And they taught me that.”

On choosing a career in law:

Gover- Law and Civil Rights (Click to Play)

EXCERPT: “I think it had something to do with the people that my parents exposed me to during the civil rights movement. There was a loose organization . . . that just called itself “the Group.” But they had taken on as their charter to try to end segregation in Lawton, Oklahoma, in both public and private facilities. And among the members of the group were some lawyers that I remember. I remember one named Maynard Ungerman, another named Bill Sexton. And I just saw how the Group had such a respect for them. When they spoke, everybody was listening. And I think that may be where I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer.”

On his struggles with alcoholism:

Gover-Alcoholism (Click to Play)

EXCERPT: “In my career as a drinker, I still have memories that I shudder over, things that I did, and just wish I could take them back. I know I can’t. . . . Almost everything I’ve done in my life that I’m genuinely ashamed of—not failing, but just ashamed of—happened when I was drinking. So that’s reason enough for me never to drink again.”

The National Day of Listening is an effort to encourage all Americans to honor a friend, loved one, or member of their community by interviewing them about their lives. StoryCorps has created a free do-it-yourself interview guide with equipment recommendations and interview instructions available online at www.nationaldayoflistening.org.



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Totally enjoyed this interview. Would love to meet this gentleman. He has been involved with tribal peoples in many arenas, and just wished he could have been invited to the Klamath tribes, of which I am a member. He gives me hope, that at 62, I can continue my education after raising 6 children. We have no limits but those that we set ourselves. Indian people making a difference anywhere and everywhere we can!!

Even though I am not an American Indian, I think Kevin Grover can be an inspiration to everyone.

With regard to his bout with alcoholism, I know how devastating this disease can be. My mother was a recovering alcoholic for more than 26 years before she died. It was a daily struggle, but she used it to inspire others. When Kevin decided that he did not like the person he was when he was drinking, he used it to make a positive change in his life.

The wisdom he received from parents about accepting others without judgment is advice I think many people can benefit from today. So many of us are afraid to even acknowledge that there are differences between us, because it might not be 'politically correct' to do so.

I think it is wonderful to ask people about their different cultures. When we are open to hearing how other people live, without making judgments about them, we can actually put the National Day of Listening into effect on a daily basis.

Excellent. купить ноутбук Totally enjoyed this interview!

I can relate I have had a part time job as a drinker.

Great interview. Real experiences from real people like Kevin Gover can really serve to help a lot of people who face similar challenges.

thank you for the interview, it was very interesting. It helps other people realize that they are not alone in their struggles.

Excellent..very inspiring and informative.

great interview, we will recognize such a great work.

high value interview to listen to

Very informative blog.
nice to read.
good work
thanks for the posting.

It's wonderful to see that native American Indians are beginning to emerge into well documented and inspirational members of society. One day they may even be given the apology they so deserve. I really enjoyed the the article and gain some interesting and educational insight.

I have gone through similar times and it is great to see someone come through it as well!

Great interview. I would like to have an interview with this guy for my page.

Really very nice blog...
After a long time to find this kind of content...

Excellent, brilliant interview.

Your culture travels far. Even here in the very far south west of the United Kingdom in the county of Cornwall... there are many people with an avid interest in your fascinating culture.

Although us Celts are not too similar in many respects, I guess if we do share a common similarity... it's in our combined oral storytelling traditions.

Thank you very much indeed for posting this up.

Onen Hag Oll (One and All in the Cornish (Kernow) native language))

Mark Andrews
Cornwall UK

It's very nice and inspiring. There are many people in this world who are heroes but most will never get that recognition.

Best Regards,

Joe P.

Great to see this culture still being preserved, keep up the education!

Thank you for sharing your stories.

I am very glad to see that there is still hope. In my country the education is very low because the economic climate. You really are great!



inspiring one!! great work!!

Great story.

Very informative blog.

About Indians. Great!!!!


I met Kevin by accident once while I was taking some photos on vacation and he was a thoroughly interesting man.

Very interesting.

"This museum is really attempting to redefine a number of things. In particular and most importantly, it’s trying to redefine how Indians are represented in the museum world, and establishing a requirement that in order to represent these communities properly the community has to be deeply involved in the development of any sort of content"

I think that's very important and I hope it goes good.

I find this very interesting. I find myself 43 years old, sober, and wondering what to do. I believe I will return to school. Thanks to the commentor. If 63 is too old to go to school than 43 certainly isn't.

Very interesting blog, it is difficult to find a blog with high quality content like this, from already thank you very much.

It is fitting and just darn 'right' that an Indian community's members be involved in the decisions about what goes into their displays and stories in any U.S. museum. GD.

This was a great post. Thanks for the read :)

I think that is very important from public point of view.

very happy to read your blog.
thank you for sharing,I enjoyed the article.

Great and interesting story.
Thank you.

Thanks for this insightful information. I really enjoyed it. You provided some great values here.


Mr Gover sounds like a very interesting person. I would love to hear more about his opinions on native american history! Thank you for posting this interview!

Really really unique, good post, keep writing please.

It's the stories and people like these that give those of us who work with heritage and in museums the inspiration to work harder. Excellent article!


The museum is interesting. I especially enjoyed the piece on law and civil rights.

nice info,
thanks for sharing.. :)

I really enjoy reading such a inspiring article like this. Keep it up

I agree with Mark's comments above. This interview is pertinent to many communities worldwide where storytelling is an important part of the heritage. Her in Cornwall, stories have been passed down through many generations. Many stories are delivered through songs such as sea shanties.
Tom in Cornwall

It really is good and important to have a good memorable childhood! and glad you did.

And also having the courage and will to overcome alcoholism and even share with the public this personal journey!

Best regards!

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