Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, stands near the deployed United States flag on the lunar surface, December 1972. Credit: NASA/Rex

Friday Funny: What Did the Navajo Elder Say to the Moon?


Who says Indians don't have a sense of humor? In a new weekly feature, we'll be bringing you some funny stuff every Friday.

(If you've heard a good one or have a link to share, please send it our way at

Here's one to kick it off -- admittedly, and oldie but a goodie:

When NASA was preparing for the Apollo project, they did some astronaut training on a Navajo Indian reservation. One day, a Navajo elder and his son were herding sheep and came across the space crew. The old man, who only spoke Navajo, asked a question, which the son translated: "What are the guys in the big suits doing?" A member of the crew said they were practicing for their trip to the moon.

The old man got really excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts. Recognizing a promotional opportunity for the spin-doctors, the NASA folks found a tape recorder. After the old man recorded his message, they asked the son to translate. He refused. So the NASA reps brought the tape to the reservation, where the rest of the tribe listened and laughed, but refused to translate the elder's message to the moon.

Finally, NASA called in an official government translator. He reported that the moon message said: "Watch out for these guys; they've come to steal your land."


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Randy Attwood
Randy Attwood
Submitted by Randy Attwood on
I used that scene in my novel "Heart Chants," which has been favorably compared to Tony Hillerman's works. Contains best and most complete retelling of the Navajo creation story available in a work of fiction. Easy to find digital or paperback version on Amazon.

Pelagia Johanna Maria Peil
Pelagia Johanna...
Submitted by Pelagia Johanna... on
LOL but for the old man very serious.They did it to the Natives so they will do it to the moon must he have thought.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I read a story once long ago (I think it was in the Science magazine, Omni) about a crew of Army engineers coming to build a dam for a running creek. An old Indian and a young boy stood by watching the activity. The old man and his grandson approached the helmeted crew of engineers and their work crew and said, "You can't build a dam here." The chief engineer ensured the old man that they had procured all the necessary paperwork and would indeed begin building the dam the following day. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Try as they might, the crew of Army engineers could not make a dam that would hold water. They tried reenforcing the sides, but the water would run around any concrete they put in. Finally, after weeks of watching the workers and thinkers struggle with the conundrum the old man and his grandson approached the huddled engineers once again. Again, the old man said, "you can't build a dam here." Only then did the Chief Engineer realize that the old man had NOT been talking about the legality of building a dam there. He addressed the elder. ____________________________________________________________ "I misunderstood you the first time you said, that. How did you know the creek in this portion couldn't be dammed up?" ____________________________________________________________ "It's simple," said the old man, "the beaver that live here do not build their dams here. Building dams is their nature and their life's work if a portion of the creek would not support a dam they would know." ___________________________________________________________ The engineers packed up their heavy equipment, their computers and measurements and left the area. Their superior technology was useless here and they learned a lesson taught by a small mammal and an observant old man.