On Saturday, an Indigenous mother of Karuk descent was forced to leave the Portland Art Museum (PAM) in Portland, Oregon after an employee told her to remove the traditional Karuk woven baby basket in which she carried her baby on her back . The mother shared on Facebook that a member of her staff told her the basket violated the museum’s “no backpacks” policy. WFP has since issued a public apology to her mother, citing policy revisions to prevent this from happening again.
“The Portland Art Museum – where being Indigenous is cool as long as you are part of the exhibit and not actually practicing your culture,” the mother’s Facebook post began, directly referencing the Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe show in progress at the time of your visit. He said the visitor service clerk, a white woman, he asked her to remove the fanny pack, likening it to a backpack that would have violated the museum’s bag policy.
“Nice item, though,” the clerk reportedly told her mother as she was shown the door. The mother also said the employee told her she “needed to calm down and take a deep breath” when she said “Kill the Indian, save the man,” she was once a politician. The mother didn’t respond immediately Hyperallergenic requests for comment, but a museum spokesman said the visitor had not been removed from the galleries and that “no comments have been made about the safety of the child”.
“The employee who initiated the interaction was attempting to implement museum policy,” the spokesperson continued. “The visitor was asked to remove the fanny pack from her back, but she was not asked to leave the museum.”
After the mother posted the incident on Facebook, a Portland-specific activism account on Twitter shared the story in a tweets which has amassed over a million views. Dozens of Twitter users called out the museum for anti-Indigenous sentiments and posted photos of other museum patrons with backpacks and fanny packs to underscore the hypocrisy of the incident.
The museum has since issued a public apology via Twitter and Instagram saying it has reached out to the mother and her family and is reviewing its baby carrier policies to “prevent it from happening again.”
The WFP spokesperson said the staff member “understands the impact his action has had on the visitor and is extremely sorry”. The representative also confirmed that the website was updated as of today with the new policy stating that while purses, backpacks, or items larger than 11 x 17 x 6 inches must be left outside the museum, babies in carriers are permitted.