When NASA was preparing for the Apollo Project, it
took the astronauts to a Navajo reservation in Arizona
for training. One day, a Navajo grand elder and his
son came across the space crew walking among the
The elder, who spoke only Navajo, asked a question.
His son translated for the NASA people: “What are
these guys in the big suits doing?”
One of the astronauts said that they were practicing
for a trip to the moon.
When his son relayed this comment the Navajo elder got
all excited and asked if it would be possible to give
to the astronauts a message to deliver to the moon.
Recognizing a promotional opportunity when he saw one,
a NASA official accompanying the astronauts said, “Why
certainly!” and told an underling to get a tape
The Navajo elder’s comments into the microphone were
brief. The NASA official asked the son if he would
translate what his father had said.
The son listened to the recording and laughed
uproariously. But he refused to translate. So the NASA
people took the tape to a nearby Navajo village and
played it for other members of the tribe. They too
laughed long and loudly but also refused to translate
the elder’s message to the moon.
Finally, an official government translator was
summoned. After he finally stopped laughing the
translator relayed the message:
“Watch out for these assholes. They have come to steal