Bell Museum waives admission for Indigenous visitors

    bell museum
    Photo courtesy of the Bell Museum.

    Earlier this week, the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum quietly rolled out a new ticket price for Indigenous visitors: Free.

    “The Dakota people, for thousands of years, have been taking care of the land on which the museum sits,” said Denise Young, the museum’s executive director. “This was one way, and I should say a small way, that we could rightfully acknowledge their contributions and understanding of the land.”

    The change makes the Bell Museum among the first — if not the first — major natural history museums in the United States to waive admission for Native American guests.

    Young said the change was recommended by a community advisory group and approved by the museum’s board of trustees in October, with the new policy taking effect March 3.

    The change comes with a land acknowledgment on their website:

    “The Bell Museum sits on the traditional and treaty land of the Dakota people who, along with the Ojibwe people, are the indigenous peoples of the land now called Minnesota. In recognition of this fact, and to honor the Dakota people for their care of and knowledge of this land, we waive general museum admission for Dakota and all indigenous peoples.”

    General admission is $12 for adults and $9 for students at the museum, which reopened last summer after moving to a new, $80 million facility near the State Fairgrounds.

    The Minnesota Historical Society also waives admission for Native guests at Fort Snelling, and Mille Lacs Band members are offered free admission at its Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.