The Navajo Gave Apollo Astronauts A Message For The Moon Spirits
There’s a story that has floated around for years that may be apocryphal or very well may be true, regarding the time Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong were training for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
In the years leading to the mission, astronauts spent time at one of NASA’s training grounds just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. Here, in a spot called Cinder Lake, the landscape contains fields of porous volcanic soil from eruptions a thousand years prior – the perfect place to recreate an area of the lunar surface known as Mare Tranquillitatis.
NASA went to great lengths to create a realistic moon analogue, using copious amounts of explosives to replicate Mare Tranquillitatis’ craters. Skeptics of the moon landing point to Crater Lake as the set where the footage was filmed, but that’s beside the point.
While training at Cinder Lake one day, the astronauts were approached by a local Navajo elder who was curious as to what was going on. The astronauts told him they were training for an expedition that would eventually land on the surface of the moon.
The Native American man appeared amazed and slightly taken aback, contemplating what the astronauts told him in silence for a minute. He then told them his people believed there were sacred spirits on the moon, ones the astronauts might encounter while up there.
The elder asked the astronauts if they could deliver a message to the spirits from his people upon landing. Armstrong and Aldrin were willing to oblige, asking what the message was. The tribal elder had them repeat a sentence in his native tongue, over and over, until they had memorized it.
“What does it mean?” the astronauts asked.
“I can’t tell you, it’s a secret only allowed to be understood by my people and the moon spirits,” the old man said.
The astronauts, confounded by the message they were told to deliver, sought someone who spoke Navajo to translate the meaning of the cryptic words.
Upon returning to their base, the astronauts found a translator and repeated the phrase to him. The interpreter took one look at them and began hysterically laughing.
He said, “It means, don’t trust a word these people are telling you. They’re here to steal your land.”