Re: "Juanita" / Dilemma (Longish)

John Pastore (venture@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Thu, 30 May 1996 14:17:07 +0000

On 30 May 96 at 21:09, mike shupp wrote:

> On Tue, 28 May 1996, John Pastore wrote:
> <much on "Juanita">
> I'm sorry to disagree with you, but I'll let my original remarks
> stand.
> Perhaps I'm insensitive. I'm primarily interested in physical
> anthropology, after all; it's a field in which dead bodies are part
> of the trade. And it gives one a great sense of perspective.
> The world is big and heartless and this is not the greatest issue
> tugging at its heartstrings. And the concerns of ethical
> anthropologists do not weigh heavily on most people. On the other
> hand, "Juanitas" are rare; it is improbable that this sets much of a
> precdent.
> This will pass. The National Geographic exhibit will eventually
> end; there will probably be a book or two winding up on dusty
> shelves in half the country's libraries; maybe there will be a TV
> special.

Mike, besides NatGeo's continuing editorialship that has done more
to damage, at least, the indigenous of Latin America, than any other
single 'institution', there already is a book out, please note (from
the "Millenium NewsLetter"):

From: <>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 1996 05:13:20 -0400
Subject: The Secret of the Incas

In October 1995, a 500-year-old human body -- a victim of an Inca
sacrifice -- was discovered high in the Andes, making headlines
around the world. Scholars agreed that the find was historic, but
admitted they understood little about the Inca ritual. What was the
purpose of this human sacrifice? What made the Inca priests, and
their willing victim, climb a 21,000-foot mountain peak to perform

[Much Cut]

Provocative and challenging, The Secret of the Incas has profound
implications for the study of ancient cultures clearly demonstrating
that Andean lore was part of a globally shared body of thought.
Strong evidence discussed in the book indicates that this knowledge
was transmitted across the Pacific more than a thousand years before
Columbus. In Sullivan's words, the myths of other "primitive" peoples
could, if similarly decoded, constitute "an as-yet unrecognized and
unexplored history of the human race."

About the author: William Sullivan holds a B.A. from Harvard College
and a doctorate from the Center of American Indian Studies at the
University of St. Andrews. He lives in central Massachusetts.

The above may be tinged with a bookseller's hype. Perhaps the book
has worthy content. But again, isn't the notion of "sacrifice" being
used to hype it? Is there any reference to how "sacrifice" might be
treated? As the semantic blank that it is? Or is the far Pacific
more important?

... And six months from now no one but anthropologists will
> remember a bit of the controversy, or even the cause of it.

Except, perhaps, just those who have to live every of their oppressed
days under the continuing stigma of being the decendents of races
whose forebears supposedly 'sacrificed', whatever that is suppose to
mean --a stigma fostered to maintain a mean, and debilitating,
oppression since the Spanish Inquisition --and, hopefully, except
those anthropologists, archaeologists, magazine editors and museum
curators who would wish to be the educators that they can, and
should, be.

Since I have not received copies of my last message to you from
either Anthro-L or Arch-L, I am reinserting it here. I hope those of
you who may have already received it forgive the intervening
repetition for those who may have not:

From: "John Pastore" <>
Organization: Venture-Out
To: mike shupp <>
Date sent: Tue, 28 May 1996 16:42:28 +0000
Subject: "Juanita" / Dilemma
Priority: normal

Please excuse any cross-posting, thanks.

On 28 May 96 at 20:48, mike shupp wrote:

> On Sun, 26 May 1996, John Pastore wrote:

[Much cut]

> >
> > The President of the United States told the world its
> > alright to come and oogle. What do you think the world would
> > be doing, right now, if the same should have occurred for
> > the exhibition of, say, the Virgin Mary -- a "sacrificed"
> > one at that?
> >
> 1) Bill Clinton has a gift for being inane. It's
> unfortunate in a president of the USA, but not unknown.
> He made a stupid, flip remark. It was not a policy
> decision, and I doubt that most people who have heard it
> or heard of it regard his words as a serious matter.

I, for one, do; and *if* true, "that 'most' people who have not
heard it, or heard of it, do not regard his word as a serious
matter", than _maybe_ what might only be worse than: 'too bad for
those people', might have to be: 'too bad for the anthropologists,
archaeologists, etc., and, especially, related magazine editors, who
have failed to educate those people to either know better, or even
know what the considerations of the issue are.

> 2) The dead girl is of interest, as was the hanged man in
> >
> Denmark, to the general public precisely because she was (or
> is > thought to be) a religious sacrifice. As for what the
> public > will get from viewing her remains, I suspect that
> most people > will go away with a little deeper understanding
> of the fact that > "pagans" took their religion very
> seriously. I don't see this > is a bad thing. >

I too do not believe the general public's right, need to know, or
chance to learn, is a bad thing --quite the contrary. However, I do
_not_ *suppose* about what they supposedly think, no matter how
supposedly *precise* --particularly about what they have been,
perhaps, led (or abandoned) to have *thought* what *religious
sacrifice* is suppose to mean --even if it be just a semantic blank,
and, perhaps, a very rude, but lucrative, one at that.

> 3) Is it possible to divide this issue into two parts, one
> to ascertain whether the body is being treated with
> dignity in the exhibition, and the other towards seeing
> that after the exhibition the body is decently
> buried/cremated/whatever?

There are other, I think more pertinent, considerations --one which
would require a bit of fast research: what do the present Quechuan
peoples, for example, even know about this episode and this issue,
and, if they do know anything of either, what their considerations
are. And not: *might* be?

I, for one, find it very hard to believe, that, if the present Andean
people, did know, and were in the position to do anything about it,
and, if the exhibit of an Andean mummy were considered by *their*
distant antecedents, or themselves, to be acceptable (within the
still unknown conditions) for respect due (or none ?), whether that
respect due was met --or can _now_ ever be met.

Can any thinking anthropologist, or archaeologist really believe that
a culture, ancient or not, intended the display of their deceased to
have been received by a Head of State as "Juanita" was?

This issue (and its episode), demonstrates, once again, the failure
of anthropologists, archaeologists, etc, and, especially, their
related magazine editors, in their roles as educators, and, in this
instance, in the 'general' public's 'Need to Know' of what
"sacrifice" is suppose to mean, and the Andean people's 'Need to
Know' of the present disposition of their heritage, and their 'Need
to Participate In It'.

(The episode, also, demonstrates the failure of those sciences, and
related magazines to have educated a Rhodes Scholar, much less, a
Head of State.)

Moreover, the episode demonstrates the arrogance of those
institutions involved, such as National Geographic, and the
Smithsonian (?), to, if such were the case, not have investigated,
and consulted, peoples such as the Quechuan, as to what their
conditions for due respect might be, if any, and, if having made
such investigations and consultations, not only, not educate the rest
of the world as to what they were, if any, but also tell the world
what they are going to do about abiding by such investigations and
consultations, if any. The same for the conditions implied by an
educated study with consensus of the practices of "Juanita's"
distant peoples.

Is the issue and its episode to be left to evolve to the supposed
alternatives of your conclusion? I propose one might want to also
consider how those 'institutions' involved in the exhibit, will _now_
find out just what those conditions for respect due might be, and how
those 'institutions' are _now_ going to both: incorporate those
considerations in their endeavors, and how they are going to educate
the public to what those incorporations might be. And, if not, then
why such 'institutions' and magazines place themselves above such.

I, for one, do not feel I have to first *purchase* a magazine, or a
museum entry fee, to find out what, if any, such progress might be.

I can only suppose, at this point, just what the dilemma this issue,
and its episode, represents for anthropologists, archaeologists,
magazine editors, etc. might be. Might it be that these scientists,
'editors' and 'institutions' are going to sweep this issue under the
rug, along with the investigations, and educations incumbent, or not?

Might it be that such investigations, and educations be less precious
than the face-saving that such sweeping may emulate for a Head of
State, a Magazine, or Institution might, or should, possibly be?

I can only, also, just suppose that "seeing that... the body is
decently buried/cremated/whatever" cannot be (even to the
interruption, and possible closure of the exhibition) up to the
decency of, at least, present Andeans, and, instead, to what has, at
most, become the indecency of, so far, anyone else.

To not make, and allow for, such considerations, I am sure you would
agree, would be the utmost of: the same cultural arrogance that, thus
far, may have excluded these Andeans, the academic arrogance that,
thus far, has, certainly, excluded many of these fields' own
colleagues, and the combination of all these arrogances that may,
thus, still perpetuate itself.

Perhaps its time to release "Juanita" to more competent caretakers,
and their investigating, and their educating, until the matter is
settled --others who are, at least, competent enough to apply their
skills to preserve "Juanita", and her dignity, in her own homeland
--even if it means taking themselves, and their equipment there, to
do it.

To her mountain.

Thank you...

Mike, that was the closest I could come to expressing what you, in a
way, asked from, as you described, "our resident observer", being
that I am resident --outside of private communications. I am not
opposed to the exhibitions of mummies per se.

I have to suppose, nevertheless, that you have seen the communiques
of President Clinton's Executive Order dated Wednesday, May 29, and
his subsequent communique: "Government to Government Relations with
Native American Tribes, dated today, May 30th, if not I will be happy
to forward you copies.

Despite, but most probably because of, "the concerns of ethical
anthropologists [which] do not weigh heavily on most people", I
somehow think that those communiques were, at least in part, a
direct result of the pressure that was applied here in both:
Anthro-L, Arch-L and their gateways --pressure that, I hope, not
only, does not diminish, but also, now that we got them on the run so
to speak, keep them on the run, with the thought in mind that while
those executive orders may have a significant impact within the
jurisdiction of the U.S. government, the issue can, and should be,
continued to be pursued, as well, for the benefit of jurisdictions
outside the U.S.

Meanwhile, while I do not think anything more can be expected from
the executive branch of the U.S. government regarding the
international ramifications of Clinton's statements, I do from such
'institutions' which are both publishing and displaying this exhibit.
Like cancer warnings on packs of cigarettes, I don't think it would
harm anyone except those who profit otherwise, to, at least, expect
such exhibits, which refer to "sacrifices", to accompany their
publications and exhibits with references detailing the pitfall that
the use of the term "sacrifice" entails, and especially references to
so-called "sacrifices" which are not accompanied by any evidences.

Or would that be too much of a sacrifice?

And, please, do not underestimate the burden this issue has been for
peoples such as those as the Maya, and what the above, first book on
the "Incan mummy" will continue to have for the peoples of the

Again, thank you...

Ka Xiik Keech Ya Utzil,

John Pastore
Writer/Guide in 'El Mayab'
("The Mayan Homeland")

"A teepee is a pyramid, isn't it?"

Pyramid="fire (pyre) in the middle (amid)"