When NASA was preparing for the Apollo
Project, it took the astronauts to a Navajo reservation in Arizona for training. One
day, a Navajo elder and his son came across the space crew walking among the
rocks. 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 recorder.
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, laughing uproariously,
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 your land."