When Hernan Cortez and his henchmen invaded Mexico, one of the first things they did was burn the Aztec library. They did not want pagan superstitions cluttering up the advent of the "enlightened" world.

The loss was immeasurable.

Sadly, every tribe in America — to a greater or lesser degree — has suffered the same fate. History has lost a vast treasure chest to hooligans without a vision. Compensation is not possible.

That said, however, it is heartening to see that society is learning that hard lesson. And the new National Museum of the American Indian, on the mall in Washington D.C., is both an emblem of that new awareness as well as a jewel box filled with cultural wonders.

The museum has been 15 years in the making. It houses 8,000 artifacts and promises to greet 4 million visitors a year. The price tag is said to be near $210 million.

Sadly, Utah's tribes are not well-represented there. And for Utahns, how a Native American museum can be complete without Shoshone beadwork and Ute pottery is indeed puzzling.

Still, what has been gathered serves as a stunning tribute to the hearts and hands of a people who have — for centuries — been taken for granted. Among the displays there are a greeting to visitors — in 150 native languages — along with some 300 trees with unique significance for tribes. Inside, displays range from a breathtaking example of Aztec golden glory to the charm and quaintness of beaded tennis shoes.

Criticisms have been levied that the museum doesn't display enough of the darker moments of Native history. And the thriving casino business that drives the economy of so many tribes and funded much of the museum only gets a passing mention.

Nevertheless, for visitors looking to dip into American Indian culture, the museum is a well of art, writing, dance, song, philosophy, theology and history. But more than that, it officially sounds the death knell for the stereotypes that still haunt Hollywood movies and the logos of national sports teams.

Given the tenor of the times and the beauty of the people represented in the museum, in fact, it is now high time the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins and all other sports franchises with ugly symbols and mascots feel the shame and join the rest of America — including Native America — in the 21st century.