N. Scott Momaday

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N. Scott Momaday
Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts from George W. Bush in 2007
Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts from George W. Bush in 2007
BornNavarre Scott Momaday
(1934-02-27) February 27, 1934 (age 89)
Lawton, Oklahoma
NationalityKiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, American
Alma materUniversity of New Mexico (B.A.)
Stanford University (Ph.D.)
Literary movementNative American Renaissance
Notable worksHouse Made of Dawn (1968)

Navarre Scott Momaday[1] (born February 27, 1934) is a Kiowa novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969, and is considered the first major work of the Native American Renaissance. His follow-up work The Way to Rainy Mountain blends folklore with memoir. Momaday received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 for his work's celebration and preservation of indigenous oral and art tradition. He holds 20 honorary degrees from colleges and universities and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Navarre Scott Momaday was born on February 27, 1934, in Lawton, Oklahoma.[2] He was delivered in the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital, registered as having seven-eighths Indian blood.[3] N. Scott Momaday's mother was Mayme 'Natachee' Scott Momaday (1913–1996), who claimed to be of partial Cherokee descent,[4][5] born in Fairview, Kentucky,[6] while his father was Alfred Morris Momaday, who was a full-blooded Kiowa.[7] His mother was a writer and his father a painter.[2] In 1935, when N. Scott Momaday was one year old, his family moved to Arizona, where both his father and mother became teachers on the reservation.[2] Growing up in Arizona allowed Momaday to experience not only his father’s Kiowa traditions but also those of other southwest Native Americans including the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo traditions.[2] In 1946, a twelve-year-old Momaday moved to Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, living there with his parents until his senior year of high school.[3] After high school, Momaday attended the University of New Mexico, graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.[3] He continued his education at Stanford University where, in 1963, he was awarded a Ph.D. in English Literature.[3]

Literary career[edit]

Momaday's first book, The Complete Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman based on his dissertation, was published in 1965.

His novel House Made of Dawn led to the breakthrough of Native American literature into the American mainstream after the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.

House Made of Dawn was the first novel of the Native American Renaissance, a term coined by literary critic Kenneth Lincoln in the Native American Renaissance. The work remains a classic of Native American literature.

As other indigenous American writers began to gain recognition, Momaday turned to poetry, releasing a small collection called Angle of Geese. Writing for The Southern Review, John Finlay described it as Momaday's best work, and that it should "earn him a permanent place in our literature."[8] The poems in Angle of Geese were later included in an expanded collection, The Gourd Dancer (1976), which also included passages excised from The Way to Rainy Mountain. Most of Momaday's subsequent work has blended poetry and prose.

In 2007, Momaday returned to live in Oklahoma for the first time since his childhood. Though initially for his wife's cancer treatment, Momaday's relocation coincided with the state's centennial, and Governor Brad Henry appointed him as the sixteenth Oklahoma Poet Laureate, succeeding Nimrod International Journal editor Francine Leffler Ringold. Momaday held the position for two years.[9]

Academic career[edit]

Momaday is tenured at Stanford University, the University of Arizona, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California-Santa Barbara.[10] Momaday has been a visiting professor at places such as Columbia and Princeton, while also being the first professor to teach American Literature in Moscow, Russia at Moscow State University.[10]

In 1963, Momaday began teaching at the University of California-Santa Barbara as an assistant professor of English. From 1966-1967, he focused primarily on literary research, leading him to pursue the Guggenheim Fellowship at Harvard University.[11] Two years later, in 1969, Momaday was named Professor of English at the University of California-Berkeley. Momaday taught creative writing, and produced a new curriculum based on American Indian literature and mythology.[11]

During the 35-plus years of Momaday’s academic career, he built up a reputation specializing in American Indian oral traditions and sacred concepts of the culture itself.[10] The many years of schooling and teaching are evidence of Momaday’s academic success, resulting in 12 honorary degrees from several American universities.[10]

He was a Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico during the 2014-15 academic year to teach in the Creative Writing and American Literary Studies Programs in the Department of English. Specializing in poetry and the Native oral tradition, he taught The Native American Oral Tradition.


  • The Journey of Tai-me (1967), folklore
  • House Made of Dawn (1968), novel
  • The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) (illustrated by his father, Alfred Momaday), folklore
  • Angle of Geese (1974), poetry chapbook
  • The Gourd Dancer (1976), poetry
  • The Names: A Memoir (1976), memoir
  • The Ancient Child (1989), novel
  • In the Presence of the Sun (1992), stories and poetry
  • The Native Americans: Indian County (1993)
  • The Indolent Boys (Play) Premiered on the Syracuse Stage during the 1993-94 season.[12]
  • Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story (1994), children's book
  • The Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages (1997), stories and essays
  • In the Bear's House (1999), mixed media
  • Four Arrows & Magpie: A Kiowa Story (2006), children's book
  • Three Plays: The Indolent Boys, Children of the Sun, and The Moon in Two Windows (2007), plays
  • Again the Far Morning: New and Selected Poems (2011), poetry
  • The Death of Sitting Bear (2020), poetry
  • Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land (2020), poetry
  • Dream Drawings: Configurations of a Timeless Kind (2022), poetry


In 1969, Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel "House Made of Dawn" (Pulitzer.org).

Momaday was featured in the Ken Burns and Stephen Ives documentary, The West (1996), for his masterful retelling of Kiowa history and legend. He was also featured in PBS documentaries concerning boarding schools, Billy the Kid, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Momaday was honored as the Oklahoma Centennial Poet Laureate[13]

In 1992, Momaday received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.[14]

In 1993, Momaday received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[15][16][17][18]

In 2000, Momaday received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.[19][20]

Awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2007 by President George W. Bush.[21]

Momaday received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Illinois at Chicago on May 9, 2010.

In 2018, Momaday won a Lifetime Achievement Award[22] from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards,[23] the only juried prize to honor the best books addressing racism and questions of equity and diversity. The same year, Momaday became one of the inductees in the first induction ceremony held by the National Native American Hall of Fame.[24]

In 2019, Momaday was awarded the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize.[25]

In 2019 Momaday received the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.[26]

Recent activities[edit]

Momaday is the founder of the Rainy Mountain Foundation[27] and Buffalo Trust, a nonprofit organization working to preserve Native American cultures.[28] Momaday, a known watercolor painter, designed and illustrated the book, In the Bear's House.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Accent on first syllable of Momaday.
  2. ^ a b c d "N. Scott Momaday Biography and Interview". achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  3. ^ a b c d "N. Scott Momaday Biography - eNotes.com". eNotes. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  4. ^ Jim Charles, Reading, Learning, Teaching N. Scott Momaday (Peter Lang, 2007), p. 29.
  5. ^ See Kay Bonetti, "N. Scott Momaday: An Interview," in Conversations with N. Scott Momaday, edited by Matthias Schubnell (University Press of Mississippi, 1997), p. 133.
  6. ^ Nagin, Emily (Winter 2016). "Irredeemable Stories? Native American Children's Literature and the Radical Potential of Commercial Literary Forms". Studies in American Indian Literatures. 28 (4): 1–24. doi:10.5250/studamerindilite.28.4.0001. JSTOR 10.5250/studamerindilite.28.4.0001. S2CID 164607101. Momaday's mother was born in 1913 in Fairview, Kentucky, and her given name was Mayme Natachee Scott ...
  7. ^ "Momaday, N. Scott - Voices of Oklahoma". Voices of Oklahoma. Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  8. ^ Finlay, John (July 1975). "N. Scott Momaday's Angle of Geese". The Southern Review. 11 (3): 658. ProQuest 1291572481.
  9. ^ Holliday, Shawn (2015). The Oklahoma Poets Laureate (1st ed.). Norman, OK: Mongrel Empire Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-9903204-3-2.
  10. ^ a b c d "PBS - THE WEST - N. Scott Momaday". pbs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  11. ^ a b "404 | Encyclopedia.com". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-11-19. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  12. ^ Syracuse Stage 1993-94
  13. ^ Van Deventer, M. J. "Bush adding to poet's honors." Daily Oklahoman. 15 Nov 2007 (retrieved 14 Dec 2009)
  14. ^ List of NWCA Lifetime Achievement Awards, accessed 6 Aug 2010.
  15. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  16. ^ Warren, Ellen (June 14, 2004). "A meeting of the minds, Hollywood A-listers, Nobel Prize winners, Mayor Daley and myriad other geniuses rub elbows at International Achievement Summit" (PDF). Chicago Tribune.
  17. ^ "2005 Summit Highlights Photo". 2005. Academy members: Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
  18. ^ "Suzan-Lori Parks Biography Photo". 2007. Suzan-Lori Parks receives the American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist N. Scott Momaday at the 2007 International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C.
  19. ^ "Website of St. Louis Literary Award". Archived from the original on 2016-08-23. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  20. ^ Saint Louis University Library Associates. "Recipients of the St. Louis Literary Award". Archived from the original on July 31, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
  21. ^ President Bush Announces 2007 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Recipients
  22. ^ "House Made of Dawn".
  23. ^ "Home".
  24. ^ "National Native American Hall of Fame names first twelve historic inductees". Indian Country Today. Newsmaven.io. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  25. ^ "Ken Burns American Heritage Prize to be awarded to Dr. N. Scott Momaday". Digital Journal. 7 Jan 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  26. ^ Sewell, Dan (July 22, 2019). "Native American author honored with peace prize". WCPO. Associated Press.
  27. ^ "Santa Fe NM 87505 - Tax Exempt Organizations." Tax Exempt World. (retrieved 14 Dec 2009)
  28. ^ Staff, January 2009, "N. Scott Momaday", Smithsonian Q&A, Vol. 39, Issue 10, 25 pgs., retrieved 04-25-2009

External links[edit]