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Anchorage Museum pauses free admission policy for Alaska Native visitors

The Anchorage Museum exterior declares the land Dena’ina homelands.
Jim R. Kohl
Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum exterior declares the land Dena’ina homelands.

The Anchorage Museum is pausing its move to make admission free for Alaska Native people.

The policy, announced earlier this month, would’ve allowed anybody who identified themselves as Alaska Native to not have to pay for admission.

The museum changed course on Jan. 16, saying it was putting that policy on hold pending further review.

“This pause is in the interest of making sure we are in line with our intention to honor Indigenous people and provide access to their cultural belongings, while also fulfilling the broader community considerations, and applicable museum guidelines, and the law.” museum spokeswoman Janet Asaro said in a statement on Jan. 17.

The move to make admission free for Alaska Native people has received some community pushback. The author of one Anchorage Daily News opinion piece described the notion as discrimination towards non-Alaska Native people under the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Others have praised the notion as an effort to showcase the museum’s exhibits, many of them featuring Alaska Native art and artifacts, for the people whose cultures the exhibits represent.

The Native Village of Eklutna, the only federally recognized tribe in Anchorage, described the free admission as, “Great news for Anchorage’s original inhabitants!” in a Facebook post shortly after it was announced.

Asaro, the museum spokesperson, declined to be interviewed, saying that the museum is reviewing all aspects of the policy. She said that to her knowledge, no legal action has been taken over the proposal.

Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage
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