(1932 - )
Fred Begay was born in 1932. His father and mother are from the Navajo and Ute Nation. They called their son Clever Fox because he was a skillful hunter. It was his ob to feed the four younger children in the family. He shot deer and trapped rabbits near his home in Towaoc, Colorado.
When Fred was 9 years old, his mom told him to follow the river where they lived for 15 miles. He would reach a boarding school for Indian children. There, they would give him food and shelter.
The government boarding school was run by white. He was surprised that they lived in houses instead of tents. They had so much food, they threw it away. He dug through the garbage for fruits and vegetables.
At the boarding school, Indian children were not allowed to speak the Navajo language. Fred Begay's name was changed to Fred Young. He did not see his family for two years. He was not allowed to attend Indian religious ceremonies.
After leaving school, Begay joined the U.S. Army. He flew on rescue missions during the Korean War (1950-1953). When he returned from the war, his tribe paid for him to go to the University of New Mexico.
Begay studied many hours a day. He was excited about science. It answered his questions about nature. He also studied Philosophy. It helped him understand the Anglo American.
At the university, there were few American Indians, so Fred felt alone. HIs Navajo ways taught him not to stand out in a crow. In his language, the word "special" does not exist. Because he was quiet, people thought he was stupid or afraid. This made Begay angry. But he never gave up his studies.
He graduated with honors. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics and Math in 1961. Then he received a Master's Degree. He followed it with a Doctorate in Physics in 1971.
After college, Begay went to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Los Alamos is where the first atom bomb was made in 1945. The atom bomb split atoms apart. Begay though is working to join atoms to produce heat.
He has designed experiments that were sent into space on rockets. Begay wants to learn more about the heat coming from the sun. He is trying to discover a way to produce affordable heat without harming the environment.
Begay returns to his reservation in the Four Corners area often. He tells people about the work he does in the lab. Once he tried to explain how he measures the sun's heat with laser beams. The Medicine Men did not understand how Begay's work could help the Navajo.
Many Navajos live without heat or running water in their homes. For them, the sun is something they pray to. They look to the sun for protection and guidance.
Begay said he is copying the way the sun works. Then he might be able to bring heat and electricity to reservation homes.
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