who we are, what we do


Kenah is Powhatan Algonquian for “thank you.”  For us, the name represents our gratitude to the clients who entrust us to collaborate with them to achieve tribal goals.  It is also a tribute to the Powhatan clients that gave Senior Executive Director, Michelle Lea Kiel, Ph.D., her start in Indian Country and to the Pamunkey roots of our Executive Director, Ashley Atkins Spivey, Ph.D.

At Kenah, our goal is to build long-term relationships with our tribal clients.  We do this through respect, discretion, and honesty.  We only take cases that we believe enhance tribal rights, sovereignty, capacity, and cultural preservation.  We use anthropology and anthropological expertise to advocate for and aid tribes on terms they define and in ways that ensure tribal ownership of tribal history.


Michelle Lea Kiel, Ph.D.
Senior Executive Director

Dr. Kiel is a political anthropologist whose research focused on the intersection of state bureaucracy and indigenous populations. Michelle’s academic and professional experience gives her a unique perspective on how to mobilize data on native communities to aid them in achieving their goals. Dr. Kiel specializes in Federal Acknowledgment, Land into Trust, Natural Resource Rights, Economic Development, Historic and Ethnographic Research and Analysis, Capacity Building, Program Development, and Grant-Writing. Dr. Kiel has been working with indigenous communities for nearly 20 years. Her efforts have culminated in federal recognition and over $2.5 million in grants for Indian Country.

Ashley Atkins Spivey, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Dr. Spivey is an economic anthropologist whose research focused on archaeology and economy in native communities. Ashley’s academic and professional experience has been largely focused on cultural resource management and preservation in Indian Country. Ashley specializes in Cultural Resource Management, Museum Management, Historic and Ethnographic Research and Analysis, Program Development, and Grant-Writing. Her collaborations with Tribal communities and outside organizations has resulted in over $1.5 million in grants supporting tribal initiatives and institutional collaboration with tribal communities. Ashley is an enrolled member of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Team Members

Lisa C. Bergstrom, M.A.
Cultural Heritage and Client Development Specialist

Ms. Bergstrom is a Cultural Heritage and Client Development Specialist whose work has focused on advocating for and working with underrepresented communities.  Her specialties include capacity building, resource development, and strategic planning for the preservation of historic and cultural resources, cultural landscapes, and tangible and intangible heritage.  This work has helped to fund an array of collaborations between museums, historic sites, and the communities they serve.  Through her former advocacy and policy work with Preservation Virginia, the country’s oldest statewide preservation organization, Ms. Bergstrom has built a broad network of resources with local, state and federal agencies.