Peter d'Errico: Dead Indian bodies still of interest to scientists

Peter d'Errico on the lure of dead Indian bodies:
Berlin's Museum of Medical History has entered the controversy about exhibition and repatriation of human remains. As The New York Times reports, the curators are "re-evaluating the principles that govern their displays as they confront a growing debate over what cultural organizations should be doing to preserve the dignity of the dead."

Museums around the world have been grappling with consciences and protests about this for several years. Indigenous peoples bodies in particular have been the object of scientific collection and study, sometimes while they are alive—witness Ishi in the University of California: he was a research subject and assistant at the same time.

A truly bizarre chapter of science and bodies was discussed in a letter from Clark Mills, a 19th century American sculptor, in the Times, on May 22, 1882. Mills referred to the then-current debate about whether Indians could be "civilized or Christianized" after they were adults, or only while they were children, at the Hampton Institute. An Indian boarding school/concentration camp of the worst kind.

Get the Story:
Peter d'Errico: Bodies and Bones: What Is Science For? (Indian Country Today 6/1)

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