Opinions: Defending Rick West's tenure at NMAI
Keller George: "There has been a lot of talk about The Washington Post's front-page story (Dec. 28, 2007) about W. Richard West Jr., the founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian. My term on the board of trustees of the museum ends in December 2008 and now I would like to have my say.

As president of USET for 12 years, I traveled more miles on airplanes and spent more hours in airports than I care to remember. What I will always remember, however, are my travels with Rick West to various Indian reservations to promote the dream of a museum dedicated to American Indians in Washington, D.C. - a dream that is now a reality to the seventh generation because of his tireless work.

It is small wonder that each year, fewer qualified people are willing to join the ranks of the public sector. We live in a time when years of work and dedication can be smeared in the seconds it takes to send an e-mail. The recent portrait painted of Mr. West, both real and metaphorical, says a lot about an age where it is so easy to tear down and ever harder to build things up."

Paul Apodaca: "The Washington Post has engaged in selective perception in its reporting about former National Museum of the American Indian Director W. Richard West Jr. and his efforts to bring together the people, resources and perspectives needed to make the NMAI not only a Smithsonian-quality institution but to make it relevant to the Native people it represents in its holdings. Few outside the museum world or Indian country can appreciate how terrible the relationship has been between museums and Native folks. West turned resources usually held for the elite to the service and inclusion of Natives and traveled to meet communities on their own ground, engage cultural leaders around the world, and announce the presence of American Indians and indigenous concerns as part of the world conversation for the 21st century. He battled stereotypes from every angle while maintaining inclusiveness as the primary value that would make the NMAI a public statement as well as an institution.

The selective report by the Post missed the social significance of an American Indian professional becoming an in-demand player in the normally exclusionary world of museum officials and cultural ministers. Raking over the budget of West's efforts is a parlor trick that, when employed against any business or government professional, can seem to reveal questionable activity. How much does the White House spend on napkins alone at a State dinner? How much does it cost per minute for the president or a cabinet member to travel with their entourage? Which seat did West sit in on an airplane or which room did he sleep in at a hotel? Such trivia is not serious investigative journalism."

Get the Story:
Keller George: George: Time to speak out (Indian Country Today 1/18)
Paul Apodaca: Under West's wing, NMAI made history (Indian Country Today 1/18)

Relevant Links:
National Museum of the American Indian - http://www.nmai.si.edu

Related Stories:
Harjo: On Rick West, Kevin Gover and NMAI (1/15)
Rick West: 'Gossip' journalism in ICT and WaPo (1/11)
Opinion: Rick West's abuse of power at NMAI (1/11)
Editorial: Rick West lost sight of basic mission (1/7)
Editorial: Rick West's extravagant lifestyle (1/4)
Ex-NMAI director West spent over $250K on travel (12/28)

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