The Southeast Cultural Region was populated for over ten thousand years before the arrival of Europeans. The Indigenous peoples of this region benefited from the warm climate and developed sophisticated methods of farming and complex societies with diverse languages and customs. The First Nations of the Southeast include the Cherokee, Catawba, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez.
John Herrington (1958- ) (Chickasaw). First Enrolled Member of Native American tribe to fly in space. To honor his Chickasaw heritage, Herrington carried its flag on his thirteen-day trip to space. The flag had been presented to him by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby.
John Bennett Herrington was born on September 14, 1958 in Wetumka, Oklahoma. He is of Chickasaw heritage. Herrington graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in applied mathematics in 1983. In Colorado, he also excelled in rock climbing.
In 1996, Herrington became a NASA astronaut. He traveled to the International Space Station on the Endeavour on November 23, 2002 where he delivered and installed cargo and returned the former space station crew. He accomplished three space walks and was the first Native American astronaut to accomplish space travel and a space walk.
Commander, USN (Ret) and NASA Astronaut, Educator, and Story-Teller
Herrington joined the U.S. Navy in 1984 and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL before becoming a naval aviator at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in California. From 1991-1993, Herrington was a test pilot of warfare aircraft for the U.S. Navy. In 1995, he earned his Masters of Science in Aeronautical Engineering.
For his mission to space, Herrington carried with him eagle feathers, arrowheads, wooden flutes, and the flags of the Chickasaw and Crow nations to honor his heritage. The flag had been presented to him by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby.
In 2004, Herrington served as commander of NEEMO 6 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) in an underwater laboratory called Aquarius. NEEMO 6 studies human survival techniques to prepare for space exploration.Herrington retired from the U.S. Navy and NASA in 2005.
Since retiring from NASA, Herrington has worked for Chickasaw Nation, has done numerous public speaking engagements, and gotten his Ph.D. in Education. Herrington was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2019. He authored a children's book, Mission to Space, in 2016. Herrington continues to work to promote STEM education and careers for youths, particularly Native Americans.