PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Art Museum has apologized following an incident in which an Indigenous guest was told to remove her traditional woven baby carrier because it violated the museum’s no-backpacks policy.
PAM currently has two exhibits that feature Indigenous and Native American art, including Jeffrey Gibson: They Come From Fire and Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe.
In a Facebook post shared on Saturday evening, the mother said she was viewing the Dakota Modern exhibits when she was asked to remove her carrier.
“The Portland Art Museum — where being Indigenous is cool as long [as] you are part of the exhibit and not actually practicing your culture,” she said in her post, which includes a photo of her and the baby smiling.
According to the museum guest, a staff member told her that the baby basket was a threat to the art and to the baby, but it was a “cool item.” The employee added that backpacks weren’t allowed per museum policy.
“‘Kill the Indian Save The Man was also a policy,’ I point out,” the post continues. “‘You need to cool down — take a deep breath,’ retorts the lady… Racism is alive and well in these walls.”
PAM’s bag policy states that no bags greater than 11-by-17-by-6 inches should be carried into the museum and that visitors aren’t permitted to carry anything on their backs.
The museum issued a statement via social media on Monday evening, saying that it would update its visitor policies on baby carriers to prevent similar events from occurring in the future.
“We deeply apologize for causing harm in this interaction,” PAM said. “We are devastated that the family had a negative experience at the museum, especially in an exhibition celebrating Native American art. We want everyone to feel welcome here.”
Additionally, PAM said that Saturday’s incident isn’t a reflection of the museum’s values, and it had reached out to the family.