One of my favorite weekly reads is The Straight Dope. The answer to one question this week really bowled me over:
Q. ... Apparently a group of Eskimos were brought to a New York City museum in the 1930s. They were cruelly put on display so that visitors could feed them raw fish for a small charge. It gets worse. Apparently said Eskimos died (I'm not clear on how), and the proprietors had them stuffed and put back on display. Relatives in Alaska, wondering what had happened, made the journey to New York to find their family members taxidermed.... Is there—could there possibly be—any truth to this story?
A. ... [M]y steadfast assistant Bibliophage, whom I rely on to keep me abreast of developments in world literature, called my attention to Kenn Harper's Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo (1986, republished 2000). Long story (277 pages) short, the account you heard was garbled—the Eskimos, or more properly the Inuit, were from Greenland, not Alaska, and the year was 1897, not anytime in the 1930s. But in its grim essentials the story is true.
Read the whole account here. Learning about a despicable incident like this leaves me feeling like being of Western European culture and descent is an ignominious lot, at best.
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