1. These mummies teach us
how not to treat recent mummies.
Native American mummies were often treated as curiosities and were
collected by so-called antique collectors. Some were displayed in museums,
even until a few years ago when such displays were outlawed by Congress.
Even Ishi, the last of his tribe,
was mistreated by the Smithsonian institution (because he was such a good
2. When treated with respect
by archaeologists, native American mummies can teach us about the lives of
early native American tribes. A
few early studies, especially by Emil W. Haury at the University of
Arizona, have taught scientists many things about native American life.
However, because most
native American mummies died so recently (in archaeological terms),
because their DNA can be used trace them to their living ancestors,
because the United States has a history of mistreatment of native
Americans (no one would want their dead to be treated as curiosities or
potential museum displays--how would you feel if your great great great
grandmother was taken from her coffin and placed in a local museum because
she was "interesting" to look at?), and because disturbing the
burials of native Americans desecrates their strong religious beliefs (a
cave was a native American cemetery in many tribes), it is doubtful that
any further study will take place.