Errors and Omissions: A Message From Astronaut John Herrington
Astronaut John Herrington asks for a clarification of a quotation in our March 20 profile. The context for the comment "We were proud of the fact that we didn't grow up in that culture" has created confusion. Writer Philip Chien explains that the culture in question was "the attempt at the time to encourage Native Americans to assimilate into White society." Chien passes on an email from the astronaut:
"Phil, I was wondering if you could submit a correction to the article in the Indian Country Today? The quote, "We were proud of the fact that we didn't grow up in that culture." is not correct. I believe what I said was that growing up in OK in the 40s, 50's and 60's you didn't talk about being Indian because you were supposed to blend in. I never said I was proud of the fact I didn't grow up in the culture. That's the farthest from the truth. I have always been proud of where I came from and my heritage. I'm afraid people are going to look at that article and assume something of me that I am not. Everyone in my family has a deep respect for our culture, and I feel I missed out on it by not having grown up there. Thanks, John."
We also gave the wrong rank. "Major" is an Air Force rank, Chien tells us, and as a Navy officer, the astronaut is Commander Herrington. We apologize to Commander Herrington and, along with all of Indian country, send him best wishes for his mission.
Although Cdr. Herrington is the first astronaut to come directly from an Indian background, a reader notifies us that former NASA astronaut Robert L. Crippen (Captain, USN, Ret.) also claims Native heritage, from a Cherokee ancestor. He served on four shuttle missions, as pilot for the first, STS-1 in 1981, and as commander of three more, during 1983 and 1984.