Member of Navajo Nation to lead National Endowment for the Humanities

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A member of the Navajo Nation has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Shelly C. Lowe is the first Native American to be chairperson of the federal cultural agency after she was nominated by President Joe Biden in October.

"I am honored and privileged to serve the nation as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and am grateful for the bipartisan support of the Senate and of President Biden and Vice President Harris," Lowe said in a statement.

The Senate voted for confirmation on Feb. 2.

The White House is expected to make the official appointment soon and Lowe will start her appointment thereafter, according to the cultural agency.

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Lowe grew up in the central part of the Navajo Nation in Ganado, Arizona.

According to the agency's website, she is Bilagáana (Anglo), born for Naaneesht'ézhi Táchii'nii (Charcoal Streaked Division of the Red Running Into the Water Clan). Her maternal grandfather is Bilagáana (Anglo), and her paternal grandfather clan is Tábaahí (Water's Edge).

Shelly C. Lowe, a member of the Navajo Nation, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 2 to lead the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"Having grown up in a small rural Navajo community in northeast Arizona, I have personally seen how the humanities can help sustain and strengthen individuals, communities and institutions, yet I am alert to the fact that access to humanities resources remains unevenly distributed across our country," she said. "I look forward to working with NEH staff and the network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils to expand opportunities for all Americans to participate in and benefit from humanities-centered research, education and public programs."

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The agency's chair is advised by the National Council on the Humanities, a board of 26 private citizens appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Lowe was appointed to the council by President Barack Obama and served from 2015 to 2021.

Her career in higher education includes roles at Harvard University, Yale University and the University of Arizona.

She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in American Indian studies, both from the University of Arizona and has completed doctoral coursework in higher education there.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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