Honoring Founders & Elders at 2013 SACNAS Conference

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, President Maggie Werner-Washburne honored the founders and elders of SACNAS at a special ceremony. Below is the text of her remarks. After her speech, a short video was shown. (View on YouTube.)



This week has been celebration of our 40th anniversary and a powerful reminder of our history. We have had the opportunity both to connect with the founders of our organization and to nurture and mentor our future elders. I have witnessed and participated in this intergenerational dialogue and it has truly inspired me.

Here we are--over 3,000 of us--together in the same building. When we are not together physically, we stay connected by email and Twitter and Facebook. But imagine what it was like 40 years ago! There was no social media or a SACNAS conference. There was only word of mouth and the Yellow Pages!

It was an incredible feat of perseverance that the founders of SACNAS “found” each other. Their connection was truly the definition of social networking. In fact, I know that JV Martinez actually went through institutional phone directories looking for the scientists with “Spanish surnames” and called or wrote each one of them to connect personally and request their involvement in what was to become SACNAS.

From the beginning we were a multicultural organization, embracing Chicano, Hispanic, “Spanish-surnamed,” and Native American scientists. But, I’d like to take a minute to talk about the word “Chicano” to help all those of you who are wondering why this has stayed in our name for so long. Actor and activist Cheech Marin wrote an article about Chicanismo. He says: “To me, you have to declare yourself a Chicano in order to be a Chicano...I'm a Chicano because I say I am.” Marin talks about his uncle Rudy who went to get his car fixed and when he was told it would cost $250, Two-fifty? Estas loco? Hell, just give me a pair of pliers and some tin foil. I'll fix it - I'm a Chicano mechanic. Two-fifty, mis nalgas." Marin continues, “And that was the defining epiphany. A Chicano was someone who could do anything. A Chicano was someone who wasn't going to get ripped off. He was Uncle Rudy. He was industrious, inventive, and he wants another beer. So I got my Uncle Rudy another beer because, on that day, he showed me that I was a Chicano and I've been a Chicano ever since.”

So one side of our founding family is Chicano, the other side is Native American. Our founders were Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee, and Cahuilla-Cupeno of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians with PhDs ranging from Genetics, to Physics, to Psychology. They were our courageous ones. Our visionaries.

Together, the founders of SACNAS broke new ground and changed the landscape for all of us who followed.

They taught us a new way of walking in the world.

The founders and elders of SACNAS broadened the definition of what it meant to be a scientist. And they broadened the definition of community.

They created a space where science, culture, and community can be connected and equally essential. They created a new cultural concept. Not just Chicano or Hispanic or American Indian, but SACNISTA: where all aspects of ourselves can exist together--whole and accepted.

So now, I would like to call our founding SACNISTAS to the stage. We honor you--our founders and our elders. We honor you and thank you for your commitment, your dedication, your guidance, and your trust, for we are the ones who are carrying your vision into the future.

Return to 40th Anniversary Celebration page