Sunday, February 11, 2024

N. Scott Momaday

Author and poet N. Scott Momaday (1934-2024) was one of the most famous Native Americans of our time and with good reason. In 1969 he became the first Native American to earn the Pulitzer prize for the book “House Made of Dawn” which is now often required reading in English classes.

The international legend, a member of the Kiowa nation, was born in Lawton Oklahoma, and died last month at his Santa Fe home.


He went to the University of New Mexico for his BA and went on to Stanford for an MA and PhD in English Literature. He became a tenured professor at Stanford, the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been a visiting professor at Columbia and Princeton universities, and in Moscow.

Photo by LaVerne Harrell Clark

In 2007 President George W. Bush presented Momaday with the National Medal of Arts for his writing, preserving Native American art and the oral tradition.


In 2019 Momaday sat down to discuss the latter with Robert Redford and if you have the slightest interest I would urge you to listen to the entire ten-minute discussion ... 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfW2wlUK_wE&t=2s

Momaday was able to continue the Native tradition of storytelling through his writings, both in prose and poetry. His works include more than 13 books of poetry, plays, prose, and children’s stories. Another well-known Native American author, Sherman Alexie, said of Momaday’s writings that they were “one of the primary foundations for all Native American literature.”

Of course, Momaday was eager to communicate the culture of his Native American background for all to appreciate. He produced a limited edition of Kiowa folk tales which was later enlarged with passages related to Kiowa history. His concern over people being able to live in harmony with nature permeates all his poetry.

Visual art plays a role in Native American lives and that carries down even to generations who become teachers or lawyers. Momaday illustrated his anthology, “In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961-1991” with 60 of his own drawings.


An example of Momaday’s range and depth is the poem below, "Standing Before an Old Painting of the Crucifixion" ...

I ponder how He died, despairing once.
I've heard the cry subside in vacant skies,

To continue, follow link below ...