A Western American by birth, Dr. Tamar McKee hails from Boulder, CO. After venturing out East for her B.A. in anthropology at Hamilton College where her studies of the American West dovetailed with the anthropology of Tibet, she returned to Boulder for a dual Masters in anthropology and museum and field studies at CU. This chapter also served as her introduction to the Center of the American West, first as an intern, and then as a program and research assistant. During this time, she helped bring into fruition conferences and reports such as Facing Fire: Lessons from the Ashes and Boom and Bust in the American West; while gleefully overacted the character of water-guzzling Suburbia in CAW’s “Urban-Rural Divorce” play. As CU alumni, McKee went on to teach at Regis University and work for various museums in the Boulder area, including co-curating Waves on the Turquoise Lake: Contemporary Expressions of Tibetan Art at the CU Art Museum, an exhibit and symposium that was the first gathering of contemporary Tibetan artists from Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora since 1959. Riding the wave of Waves, McKee set off to conduct her Ph.D. in anthropology at UBC, with plans to shift topics from the study of art to human-horse relationships in nomadic Tibetan culture. But when political strife in 2008 shut down access to key field sites in Tibetan communities in China, McKee pivoted to Bluegrass Kentucky as her field site to study human-horse relationships.
In 2014, with her daughter in tow, she graduated with her Ph.D. and went on to teach at various universities in Vancouver, British Columbia before landing a faculty appointment in social sciences at Quest University in Squamish. Her son joined the family during this time, as did the desire to become an entrepreneur, and together with her husband, McKee co-founded Khala & Company, which brought them back to the Boulder area to make the most of the area’s natural and outdoor business incubator climate. In 2019, McKee was hired as the first manager of the re-branded Stephen H. Hart Research Center at History Colorado where she oversaw the daily operations and special projects and programs tied to the research center, including an exhibition development series on the diversity of horse culture in Colorado. McKee re-joined the Center of the American West in December 2021 as the Manager of Programs and Operations, and when not making the familiar commute to campus, you can find her romping around Lafayette and south Boulder with her family and a dog affectionately nicknamed “King Fluff” (who also makes the commute into the office from time to time, too).