Canku Ota logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


pictograph divider


 First American Indian Rides to Orbit in August


 by Steven Siceloff Florida Today-October 3, 2001

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - John Herrington will become the first American Indian in space when shuttle Endeavour begins a mission in August.

An eagle feather will ride with him representing the first Americans, the New World natives from whom he descended. "It represents strength, it's an amazing symbol," Herrington said from Johnson Space Center, where he and his new crewmates have begun training for the space station construction mission.

"For me, it's just kind of who I am."

Herrington did not grow up on a reservation, but retains a tribal membership in the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. His mother did not talk much about the tribe, but Herrington made up for it by reading about American Indian history.

"It was a close knit group that I grew up in," he said. "No one ever sat me down and said, 'this is the way you live your life.' "

Clara Sue Kidwell, director of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said a combination of poor education opportunities and a different outlook on nature kept American Indians from joining the astronaut ranks sooner.

"Indian people have not been generally involved in the mathematics and technical fields where astronauts seem to come from," Kidwell said. "And there are some different ways of looking at science."

Herrington already has spoken to scores of schoolchildren, and hopes he can change the previous mindset.

"I think there's a lot of people who need role models and they didn't know they had them," he said. "They will follow the space program a lot closer than they would have. When you know someone on the vehicle, you have a real connection to it."

Since he is the lone American Indian in the Astronaut Corps, Herrington also gets to teach others in the office about the tribes.

"I didn't wave a banner saying this is who I am," he said. "They're curious about it. It's a chance to educate."

Herrington feels the flight, though preceded by several others, also will represent a defiant gesture to the terrorist strikes in New York and Washington. "No one can do this the way we do it," he said. "I think even more so now, 'Here, watch this.' "

The mission will see Herrington join veteran flyer Michael Lopez-Alegria on a series of spacewalks outside Endeavour to attach a new segment to the space station.

Herrington served at Kennedy Space Center as a "Cape Crusader," one of the astronauts who straps other astronauts into shuttles, but does not have a flight under his belt.

"I've been here five years and you start wondering when it's going to happen," he said.

John Herrington

pictograph divider



pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota logo


Canku Ota logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.