your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Chickasaw Nation member followed dreams to NASA
Friday, November 14, 2003

John Herrington's dreams started in a box.

A big cardboard box, to be exact. As a child, Herrington, his brother and a friend fashioned it into a vehicle for space travel.

"I was probably about 8 or 9 years old," Herrington recalled. "We used to sit in this thing and we honestly thought we were going to the moon in a Saturn rocket."

Herrington's boyhood dreams aren't too far from his reality. Only the box became the Space Shuttle Endeavour. And instead of the moon, the destination was the International Space Station.

Not bad for a kid from the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, who moved about 14 times before graduating from high school, who was kicked out of college for having poor grades yet who made history one year ago as the first Native American to go into space.

"I never thought this was something I could actually achieve until I got much older," he said.

Herrington, a commander in the U.S. Navy, was the keynote speaker at NASA's Native American Heritage Month event yesterday. He told a group of young students from Washington, D.C., what it was like to spend 14 days in space, where the sun rises and sets every 45 minutes.

"It gets dark real quick," he said.

But more importantly, he spoke of the importance of following one's dreams. "If you seek out the best in yourself, work really hard and listen to all the folks around you," he said, "everyone here has fabulous potential to do some great things."

Herrington also underscored the importance of role models. He was encouraged to go back to college, enter the U.S. Navy, become a test pilot and eventually a NASA astronaut by people who took an interest in his life. He learned from and listened to those people, he said.

"If there is something in life that you think you want to do, seek out someone who is doing it," he told the students. Ask questions, find out more about the field, discover how to get involved, he said, and education will become more exciting.

For the parents, teachers and adults in the audience, he brought a related message. "Everybody here has the opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone," he said. "If there is someone out there [in need of guidance], seek them out, help them out."

Herrington has become a household name in Indian Country in recent years, inducted into his tribe's Hall of Fame for his achievements and lauded by Native Americans everywhere. He's an active member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), which encourages Native Americans to enter math, science and engineering fields.

"When was selected to NASA in 1996, I didn't realize how much my heritage would become a part of what I do at NASA," he told the audience. "It's been a tremendous blessing for me but also an awesome responsibility."

Herrington was born in Oklahoma but didn't grow up in a tribal environment because he left the state at an early age. He also said societal pressures played a part. "My great-grandmother didn't speak the [Chickasaw] language to anyone in her family because you didn't talk about being an Indian in Oklahoma back in that time frame," he said.

In an interview, Herrngton said he marvels at Native youth who have the benefit of being immersed in their culture. It's something he didn't have and it's something that he misses. "It's a natural curiosity for everybody growing up to learn more about where they come from and why are they the person they are," he said.

As he meets with young Natives, he urges them not to take their tribal roots for granted. "Their grandparents are there, their stories are there, their dances are there -- they have it all," he said. "[They] are really fortunate to have that opportunity. . . There are a lot of folks that grew up, certainly a lot of the southeastern Indians, that didn't."

What Herrington may have missed out on, he is more than making up for it by working with the Native community. If he weren't an astronaut, he said he would be a teacher.

"There comes a time in your life when you need to start paying back for what you are doing," he said in the interview. "At least in my case, since I'm so enthused about what I'm doing, to be able to go back and share that enthusiasm with someone and get them motivated, that's the right thing to do."

"A lot of people," he added, "whether they know it or not, they can influence people. You may never know what an impact you may have."

Relevant Links:
John Herrington Bio -
American Indian Science and Engineering Society -

Related Stories:
Chickasaw astronaut to speak at NASA event (11/13)
Chickasaw astronaut shares vision of space (02/26)
Tribal fire crews proud to help NASA search (2/24)
Tribal fire crews help Columbia search effort (02/11)
Tribal members react to Columbia tragedy (2/3)
Herrington not first Indian in space (12/04)
Herrington talkes walk in space (11/27)
Space shuttle makes connection (11/26)
Herrington on board space shuttle (11/25)
NASA won't allow tobacco in space (11/22)
Students disappointed about NASA delay (11/12)
Tribal member's space ride called off (11/11)
Indian astronaut set for space flight (09/10)
Indian astronaut to talk (8/29)
Chickasaw astronaut inspires students (2/20)
Native astronaut flying high (11/19)
First Native to go to space (10/3)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
'You know, Andrew Jackson': Hearing scheduled into Trump reorganization
Key lawmakers are looking into the Trump administration's controversial reorganization amid ongoing complaints in Indian Country.
Native candidate for Congress draws attention of White House
One #NativeVote18 candidate in Kansas is facing the Trump machine while another has resurfaced in New Mexico.
Navajo Nation man still missing after more than two months
Billy Nez, Jr., was last seen by his sister on April 28. He turned 50 a week later.
Republicans seek to 'modernize' federal endangered species law
'Republicans are turning their back on the most vulnerable species in the country,' an environmentalist said.
'A war on the indigenous': Albert Bender on Trump's border policies
Donald Trump's inhuman campaign at the border amounts to a war against the Native people of this hemisphere.
Red Fawn Fallis sentenced to nearly five years for #NoDAPL incident
A non-fatal gun incident will keep Dakota Access Pipeline opponent Red Fawn Fallis in federal prison.
Top police official apologizes to Aboriginal peoples for 'pain and suffering'
Law enforcement helped remove indigenous children from their homes and have contributed to high rates of indigenous imprisonment.
'On the road to recovery': Sports betting raises concerns about addiction
An estimated 9 million Americans suffer from gambling addiction.
Another tribal recognition bill advances with Republican support
With little fanfare, another tribal recognition bill is advancing as a top Republican asserts authority over the politically-complex process.
Cherokee Nation acquires historic site by Trail of Tears landmark
The Cherokee Nation is protecting a historic site from development and rebuilding its land base in Oklahoma.
'The reservation is our homeland': Paskenta Band dedicates highway signs
Drivers in northern California will now know when they are in the homelands of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians.
Gun Lake Tribe hosts third annual Sweet Grass Moon Pow Wow
Dancers, drummers and singers are gathering at Camp Jijak in Michigan for the Sweet Grass Moon Pow Wow.
'Transform our culture': Tribal community shifts to female leadership
A Wayuu community in Colombia used to be led by men until elders decided it was time for change.
Chevron told to pay $9.5 billion judgment to indigenous communities
Indigenous leaders in Ecuador are celebrating but they might never see the $9.5 billion judgment for pollution in their communities.
Seminole Tribe looks to offer sports betting at new Hard Rock facility
The Seminole Tribe might soon offer sports betting at its new Hard Rock casino in New Jersey.
Indian Lawmakers: Denounce bigotry, even when it comes from Donald Trump
When Indians—especially Indian women—are used as props for a political agenda, call it out.
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois lacrosse team faces pressure on world stage
Lacrosse was created to end wars, not to provoke hostilities.
'Love is in there too': Reviving tribal traditions for newborns
With a new report highlighting the struggles facing Native mothers and their newborns, communities are turning to tribal traditions for support.
Dakota Access sued for failing to sell ranch at Standing Rock
Corporations aren't supposed to own ranches in North Dakota but Dakota Access got away with it in the name of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline.
White Mountain Apache man sentenced for death of 16-year-old girl
"She was destined to accomplish so much," the sister of young victim Katherine Irene Tortice said.
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe hits milestone with $60 million casino expansion
The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe is adding a five-story, 148-room hotel to the Saganing Eagles Landing Casino in Michigan.
'Shake it up': Bureau of Indian Affairs undergoes change in the Trump era
Key lawmakers have described the Bureau of Indian Affairs as lacking 'leadership' and even being 'in complete disarray.'
Bill John Baker: Tara Sweeney a 'strong voice' for Indian Country
The Cherokee Nation looks forward to working with Tara Sweeney on issues important to Indian Country.
Witness list for hearing on bill to return land to Leech Lake Band
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is taking testimony on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act.
Editorial: Supreme Court nomination shows it's time for change
Everything we were taught that was good in America is on the line.
A conservative majority: Supreme Court shifts to the right
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh gives the Supreme Court a solid conservative majority, worrying some advocates about abortion rights and other issues.
Grannies and Abuelas are heading to the border to support families
A caravan of concerned women will head to the Mexico border to deliver grandmotherly love to migrant families.
Pokagon Band announces poker room after favorable opinion from federal regulators
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians will open a poker room at its casino in Indiana in time for the Labor Day holiday.
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation continues work on $200 million casino expansion
The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is adding more than 400 hotel rooms to its casino in northern California.
Charges filed for deaths of Lakota mother and her 14-year-old son
A driver is facing just a year in jail for a crash that took the lives of Lynell Morrison-Cash and her son, Waylon, 14.
Little Shell Chippewa Tribe sees progress on federal recognition bill
A bill to recognize the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians is taking an important step forward on Capitol Hill.
Lytton Band moves closer to success with tribal homelands legislation
The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians is getting closer to securing a permanent homeland for its people.
Leech Lake Band gets first hearing on reservation restoration bill
A bill to return nearly 12,000 acres to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is getting its first hearing this week.
Funding package with increases for Indian Country slated for action
A bill that protects Indian Country from funding cuts but fails to stop the Trump administration's controversial reorganization is moving forward.
Arne Vainio: Our ancestors put lessons for life in our language
On the first day of my new way of life, I didn’t live up to the lessons our old ones put into our language.
Graham Lee Brewer: Diving deeper into Indigenous issues at High Country News
The High Country News tribal affairs desk is going through a transformation.
'It's gut-wrenching': Migrant children still being held in shelters
Children as young as 5 are still being detained by the United States despite orders to reunite them with their families.
Peter Kalmus: Trump administration runs away from climate change
The Trump administration has put fossil fuel interests over the planet’s life support system.
'Good riddance': Scott Pruitt steps down at Environmental Protection Agency
Scott Pruitt aggressively rolled back agency regulations even as he was dogged by ethical questions at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Community on Navajo Nation terrorized by 'Red Skin Kingz' gang
The leaders of a violent gang on the Navajo Nation were finally brought to justice after years of brutal crimes.
Posting about 'merciless Indian savages' can get you censored
Mark Charles has been talking about it for years but did you know that 'merciless Indian Savages' can get you censored on Facebook?
Former Miss Indian New Mexico was told she'd be 'deported' by security guard
Shopping while indigenous appears to be a new crime in sunny southern California.
Winnebago artist Henry Payer taps into tribal history
Henry Payer's earliest memory involves a sketchbook his father once gave him. He's been filling pages ever since.
Appeals court rules against Winnebago tribal corporation in tobacco case
Businesses owned by the Winnebago Tribe must turn over tobacco records to federal authorities, according to a new court ruling.
Mark Charles: The 'Indian savages' at the heart of America's so-called independence
The United States of America is white supremacist, racist and sexist because of our foundations.
'We will win': Treaty tribes continue to stand up for salmon
We will never stop fighting to protect and restore salmon habitat because that is the key to recovery.
YES! Magazine: Protect salmon and protect tribal traditions
Salmon is at the center of ceremonies, art, and identity for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and California.
Tohono O'odham Nation acquires land next to casino but won't use it for gaming
The Tohono O'odham Nation is expanding the footprint around its once controversial casino in Arizona.
Kirk Francis: Disrespect and disregard towards Indian Country continues today
Indian Country has a long, complicated, and often conflicted relationship with the United States.
Indian school went without fire alarm system for more than a decade
A school on the Navajo Nation went without fire protection systems for more than a decade and the problem still hasn't been completely fixed.
The Conversation: Native Americans are still fighting for their rights
In the thick of seismic social upheavals, Native Americans also reached for their rights as activists renewed their campaign for full sovereignty.
Secretary Zinke blames Democrats for delaying Indian Affairs nominee
Tara Sweeney waited a long time to be confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Who is to blame?
Pokagon Band welcomes influx of $2.3 million in federal housing funds
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians celebrated National Homeownership Month with a big check.

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.