40th Anniversary: the SACNAS Creation Story

The SACNAS Creation Story518

Legend says that SACNAS was founded in an elevator at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in the early 70’s. At that time, there were only a handful of Native American and Chicano scientists in the United States, and most of them had converged to attend the AAAS meeting. After attending a networking event of some sort, they all got into the elevator together. One scientist looked around and joked, “If this elevator crashes, it will wipe out the entire population of Chicano and Native American scientists in the country!” Thus the motivation to “grow the ranks” was born, and SACNAS has now been working to advance the next generation of minority scientist for 40 years.

The Truth of the Matter

Like all creation stories, there are elements of truth mixed in with the legend. While some SACNAS founders remember the “elevator” in exact detail, other founders have different records. But, what everyone does agree on is that in 1973, SACNAS was founded by a group of Chicanos and Native American scientists who recognized the need to diversify the nation’s scientific workforce and who sought to increase the numbers of Chicano and Native Americans in science.

Forty years later, the SACNAS family has grown from the number of people who can fit into an elevator to an established presence of over 23,000 members and friends at more than 1,000 institutions, agencies, and programs across the country. Our scientists are frequently called upon to provide high-level information, analysis, and advice on national science policy, and many SACNAS science professionals have received national awards and recognitions.

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