N. Scott Momaday

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N. Scott Momaday
N Scott Momaday George W Bush.jpg
N. Scott Momaday (left) receiving the National Medal of Arts from U.S. president George W. Bush in 2007
Born Navarre Scott Momaday
(1934-02-27) February 27, 1934 (age 83)
Lawton, Oklahoma, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality Kiowa
Alma mater University of New Mexico (B.A.)
Stanford University (Ph.D.)
Genre Fiction
Literary movement Native American Renaissance
Notable works House Made of Dawn (1969)

Navarre Scott Momaday (born February 27, 1934) — known as N. Scott Momaday — 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 blended 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 twenty honorary degrees from colleges and universities, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


On February 27 in 1934 Navarre Scott Momaday was born, in Lawton, Oklahoma.[1] He was born in the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital, and was then registered with having seven-eighths Indian blood.[2] N. Scott Momaday was born of Natachee Scott Momaday, having a mix of English, Irish, French, and Cherokee blood while his father, Alfred Morris Momaday was a full blood Kiowa.[3] His mother was a writer and his father, a painter.[1] 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.[1] Growing up in Arizona allowed Momaday to experience not only his father’s Kiowa traditions but also those of the Southwest including: Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo traditions as well.[1] In 1946, Momaday moved to Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, at twelve years old and lived there with his parents until his senior year of high school.[2] After high school, Momaday attended college and was awarded his Bachelors of Arts degree in English in 1958, from the University of New Mexico.[2] After continuing his education at Stanford University, he received his Ph.D. in English Literature in 1963.[2]

Literary career[edit]

Momaday received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1963. Momaday's doctoral thesis, The Complete Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, 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.

Academic career[edit]

Momaday has taught at the Universities of Stanford, Arizona, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Barbara, and has been a visiting professor at Columbia, Princeton, and in Moscow. At UC Berkeley, he designed the graduate program for Indian Studies.[4]

In 1963, Momaday taught at the University of Santa Barbara as an assistant professor of English. From 1966-1967, he focused primarily on literary research, leading him to pursue the Guggenheim Fellow at Harvard University.[5] 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.[5]

In total, Momaday has tenured at the University of Santa Barbara, University of California’s Berkeley campus, Stanford University, and the University of Arizona.[6] Also, 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 the University of Moscow.[6]

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.[6] The many years of schooling and teaching have shown Momaday’s academic success, resulting in 12 honorary degrees from several American universities.[6]

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 will teach 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.[7]
  • 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


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[8]

In 1992, Momaday received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.[9]

In 2000, Momaday received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.[10][11]

Awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2007 by President George W. Bush.[12]

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

Recent activities[edit]

Momaday is the founder of the Rainy Mountain Foundation[13] and Buffalo Trust, a nonprofit organization working to preserve Native American cultures.[14] Momaday, a known watercolor painter, designed and illustrated the book, In the Bear's House.


  • "I sometimes think the contemporary white American is more culturally deprived than the Indian."[15]
  • "I simply kept my goal in mind and persisted. Perseverance is a large part of writing."[15]
  • “Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it.”[16]
  • “A word has power in it of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.”[16]
  • “The highest human purpose is always to reinvent and celebrate the sacred.”[16]
  • “For the storyteller, for the arrowmaker, language does indeed represent the only chance for survival.”[16]
  • “Indians are marvelous story tellers. In some ways, that oral tradition is stronger than the written tradition.”[16]
  • “In the beginning was the world, and it was spoken.”[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Scott Momaday Biography -- Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d "N. Scott Momaday Biography - eNotes.com". eNotes. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  3. ^ "Momaday, N. Scott - Voices of Oklahoma". Voices of Oklahoma. Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  4. ^ "U of Arizona biography". Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "404 | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2016-11-19. 
  6. ^ a b c d "PBS - THE WEST - N. Scott Momaday". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-19. 
  7. ^ Syracuse Stage 1993-94
  8. ^ Van Deventer, M. J. "Bush adding to poet's honors." Daily Oklahoman. 15 Nov 2007 (retrieved 14 Dec 2009)
  9. ^ List of NWCA Lifetime Achievement Awards, accessed 6 Aug 2010.
  10. ^ Website of St. Louis Literary Award
  11. ^ Saint Louis University Library Associates. "Recipients of the St. Louis Literary Award". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  12. ^ President Bush Announces 2007 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Recipients
  13. ^ "Santa Fe NM 87505 - Tax Exempt Organizations." Tax Exempt World. (retrieved 14 Dec 2009)
  14. ^ Staff, January 2009, "N. Scott Momaday", Smithsonian Q&A, Vol. 39, Issue 10, 25 pgs., retrieved 04-25-2009
  15. ^ a b "N. Scott Momaday, PhD." Academy of Achievement. (retrieved 14 Dec 2009)
  16. ^ a b c d e f "TOP 25 QUOTES BY N. SCOTT MOMADAY | A-Z Quotes". A-Z Quotes. Retrieved 2016-11-19. 

External links[edit]