Loren Tapahe

his article appeared in the Arizona Native Scene.

Arizona Science Center to exhibit dead people

By: Loren Tapahe • Date: July 26, 2006

Dear Readers:

This is important, please read.

I was interview by FOX 10 TV News on July 10, 2006 and by Channel 3 TV News on July 11th regarding a disturbing exhibit coming to the Arizona Science Center in January 2007. I was also quoted in an article in the Arizona Republic on July 11th.

The exhibit, titled, "Body Worlds", as it was explained in a written statement at the meeting at the Arizona Science Center June 12, 2006 with several Native American individuals present, "shows over 200 authentic human specimens, including whole-body plastinates, individual organs and transparent body slices. The exhibit is unforgettable anatomy lesson that allows visitors to see and understand physiology and health and gain new appreciation and respect for what it means to be human."

Actual dead people. In summary, it shows actual dead people in various poses and shows sliced body parts, including the head and abdomen. It also shows a fetus in pre-embryonic stages. It was disturbing to me as an everyday normal human being, and even more so as a Native American. Pamphlets were distributed among the group and I decided not to take mine home because I have children who may see it and also be disturbed by it. It took me a few days to really recover from the images I witnessed that day. The representative from the Science Center said Native American were not used in the exhibit.

If you wish to see for yourself and read about the exhibit, you can go to www.bodyworlds.com web site.

The individuals at the meeting from the Native American community voiced their opposition to the exhibit and explained that there is a reverence to living people and to those that have passed on. The dead need to be respected by the living. Some stated, it is sacrilegious to put dead people on display, especially in a non-medical surrounding. There are ways of obtaining the same educational value using regular plastics or other methods and not by using actual human remains others commented. Another opinion was, that this exhibit is not art, but only someone attemping a shock approach to gain notoriety equivalent to the movie producers and the music industry pushing the envelope by using foul language and sex to sell tickets or and idea.

Do you want to see it? In the meeting, we were told the Science Center has already decided to have this exhibit and there were asking those Native Americans in attendance for their advice on how to present this to the Native American public. To me it was like someone asking me how to tell my children to go see something I don't want them to see. A contradiction. I am going to tell my children not to see it and to oppose it whenever they can.

This is important to those parents that have school age children whose teacher may decide to go on a field trip to the Center. The children may see the exhibit and return home disturbed by it to an extent that a healing or cleansing ceremony or ceremonies need to take place.

The Science Center will probably have warning signs and age limits, but the exhibit will undoubtedly seep into our lives. What effects one community for good or bad, ultimately effects another in the same manner. There is a reverence for life and a balance in nature we need to respect. This exhibit does neither.

I call upon the tribal leaders and the general Native population to examine the web site and ask questions regarding this exhibit. We need to become involved in our community. I am Navajo, not originally from this area, but I am a community member nonetheless in this village called the Valley and all people, not just Native Amercians need to be aware of events, and happenings that affect our community.

Just because the City of Phoenix or Mesa, Tempe or Scottsdale are not presently regarded as Native land (which is another debatable topic), that should not stop us from voicing our opinion. We live here and most likely our children will grown up here, go to school here and work here too. And of course, their children will may live here too. So if we do nothing our grandchildren will be faced with the same issues that we could have resolved decades prior.

We need to take responsibility for what’s happening in our communities and act of upon our feelings if something does not meet your standard of ethics.

To voice your opinion, you can call the Arizona Science Center at 602-716-2000 and ask for Laura Martin, Director of Science Interpretation or you can email the President and CEO of the Arizona Science Center, Mr. Chevy Humphrey at humphrey@azscience.org.


Loren Tapahe, Editor