When NASA was preparing for the Apollo Project, it took the astronauts to a Navajo reservation in Arizona for training. One day, a Navajo elder and his son came across the space crew walking among the rocks.
The elder, who spoke only Navajo, asked a question. His son translated for the NASA people: “What are these guys in the big suits doing?” One of the astronauts said that they were practicing for a trip to the moon. When his son relayed this comment the Navajo elder got all excited and asked if it would be possible to give to the astronauts a message to deliver to the moon.
Recognizing a promotional opportunity when he saw one, a NASA official accompanying the astronauts said, “Why certainly!” and told an underling to get a tape recorder. The Navajo elder’s comments into the microphone were brief. The NASA official asked the son if he would translate what his father had said. The son listened to the recording and laughed uproariously. But he refused to translate.
So the NASA people took the tape to a nearby Navajo village and played it for other members of the tribe. They too laughed long and loudly but also refused to translate the elder’s message to the moon.
Finally, an official government translator was summoned. After she finally stopped laughing, the translator relayed the message: “Watch out for these assholes. They have come to steal your land.”
This story has been around the Internet since at least 1995. According to the Urban Legends Reference Pages: “Although it might possibly have earlier antecedents as yet unknown to us, the origin of this tale appears to be a joke Johnny Carson included in his Tonight Show monologue on the evening of 22 July 1969, two days after Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the surface of the moon.”