First I want to deal with the term
“Indian.” It’s a losing battle. I give up. We still have a
Bureau of Indian Affairs but everyone seems to be using the term
“Native-American,” which, contrary to all the other double named
ethnic origin terms, is
quite ambiguous. I have always claimed to be “Native-American”
since I was born here in America. My father-in-law was born in
England so that makes him “Native-Englishman.”. I’ve never
heard the term, however. Mexican-American is quite clear, as is
African-American – all these double word identifiers are much like
we find in the South with their given names = Mary-Jo and Billy-Bob.
Before talking about my Three Indians I have two anecdotes, both true, I swear. My wife, Barbara, and I were traveling near Gallup, NM, and interrupted our trip to visit the “Sky City,” the Acoma Indian Pueblo. I stopped to chat with a middle aged woman at a table loaded with jewelry and small pottery pieces. I asked her, “Do you prefer to be called Indian or Native-American?” She laughed and said, “Indian, of course.” She continued to tell me she had a son, a lieutenant in the army, stationed at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs. (Kit Carson is another very interesting story).
The second story comes from Tony Hillerman’s autobiography. He tells of attending a conference in Washington of various tribal chiefs from across the country. At the end of one presentation an audience member asked the speaker, an important chief, whether he preferred “Indian” or “Native-American?” The speaker laughed and said. “Indian, of course. I’m just glad that Columbus wasn’t looking for Turkey.”
Now to my three Indians: Will Rogers, an Oklahoma Cherokee, he needs no introduction. He was a horseman, a rodeo entertainer, a movie star and certainly the heir of Mark Twain’s humor. His political punditry was legendary. When asked what party he belonged to he responded, “I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat.” When I was younger I thought he might be a Coloradan. My mother drove me and my new wife up to the Will Rogers memorial on top of Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. Our dear family friend, Gil Traveler, wrote a book about his relationship to the man -title:”When I Met Will Rogers.” Later in my career I had a research project at Point Barrow, AK, just a couple of miles from where he and Wiley Post died in an airplane crash in 1935.
A little lesser known, but not unknown, thanks to “Antique Roadshow,” is Maria Montoya Martinez, the world famous potter of the San Ildefonso pueblo in NM. Her black-on-black pottery is world famous and I suspect that most of the surviving pieces are currently in museums. My folks met her and her husband, Julian, back in the 20s or early 30s. Julian was the governor of the pueblo and had a great sense of humor. He drove a Model-T painted black-on-black and when visitors came to the pueblo he would greet them with a little dance and say “Me big Indian chief.” He was, of course, well educated and sophisticated. The photo, taken from Wikipedia shows Maria during the period when nearby Los Alamos was deep into making atom bombs for the war. Fermi, a man she had met, is the author of “Fermi's Paradox,” and the naming of half the material substance of the universe, the Fermions - protons and neutrons. The other photo shows Maria with some of her creations.
My third Indian, probably not well known among my readers, is a friend from my life in San Diego, Herb York was a Mohawk and a very famous American scientist. See his Wikipedia entry for details. I will only mention a few from my personal interests. He was one of the luncheon four in 1950 at Los Alamos present when Fermi made his remark, and he was the the one who reported it: “Where are they?” One of the final contacts I had with him occurred when he recommended a short story for my reading enjoyment, a little bit of “steam” science fiction, “The Brick Moon.” He was US ambassador to Switzerland for the arms control pacts. He and his wife, Sybil, spent two years there negotiating arms control with the Russians. He was also the founding chancellor of UCSD. My wife, Barbara, and his wife, Sybil, played bridge together over the years.
Below are listed a few of his more important publications.
Race to Oblivion (Simon & Schuster, 1970)
Arms Control (Readings from Scientific American (W.H. Freeman, 1973)
The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb (W.H. Freeman, 1976), a book that Hans Bethe regarded as containing a highly accurate treatment of the "Russian H-bomb" test of 1953.
Autobiography (1978). "Race to Oblivion: A Participant's View of the Arms Race". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
Making Weapons, Talking Peace: A Physicist's Journey from Hiroshima to Geneva (Harper & Row, 1987)
A Shield in Space? Technology, Politics and the Strategic Defense Initiative (U.C. Press, 1988, with Sanford Lakoff)
Arms and the Physicist (American Physical Society, 1994)