Anchorage Museum ‘Pauses’ Controversial Policy Offering Free Admission to Alaska Natives

A museum in Anchorage has paused a controversial policy intended to offer free admission to Alaska natives.

The policy, announced on January 3, allowed Alaska Native visitors to self-identity at the museum’s ticket counter; no proof of tribal enrollment was required to receive complementary admission. 

In a statement shared Tuesday, the museum said the 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.”

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Per local reports, the policy was divisive in the Anchorage community. In one Anchorage Daily News opinion piece, Donald Craig Mitchell, an attorney based in the Alaskan city, described the initiative as discrimination against non-Alaska Native visitors, according to his interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. 

Many praised the museum’s intention—the Native Village of Eklutna, the single federally-recognized tribe in the city, wrote on Facebook, “Great news for Anchorage’s original inhabitants!”—while others still raised concerns over the policy’s lax requirements for proving Native enrollment. 

According to its release, the museum “remain(s) deeply committed to the goals of honoring Indigenous people and improving access to their cultural belongings.”

A museum spokesperson told KTOO, a partner outlet of Alaska Public Media, that the policy was under review, however as of now there have been no challenges to its legality.

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