monument valleySCENE: ARIZONIA LATE 20th CENTURY

When NASA was preparing for the Apollo Project, astronauts were taken for training to a Navajo reservation in Arizona.

A Navajo grand elder and his son happened to come across some of the space crew.

The elder spoke only Navajo, and got his son to ask: “What are these men in the big suits doing?” One of the astronauts replied that they were practicing for a trip to the moon.

When his son relayed this comment, the Navajo elder seemed to become animated and asked if it would be possible to give to the astronauts a message to carry with them to the moon.

Recognizing a promotional opportunity when he saw one, a senior NASA official accompanying the astronauts said, “Why certainly!” and got one of the men to bring a tape recorder.

The Navajo elder made some brief comments into the microphone. The intrigued NASA official asked the son who was chuckling to translate what his father had said, but he refused, and they went their on way.

The NASA people took the tape to a nearby Navajo village and played it for members of the tribe. Though it provided much merriment to the villagers they, too, refused to translate the elder’s moon message.

Eventually an official government translator was summoned. After much laughter, the translator relayed the message:  “It says watch out for these people. They have come to steal your land.”

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