Native Writer N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday is credited with starting the renaissance in
American Indian literature, which began in the 1960ís and
resulted in a burst of extraordinary writing by Native
Americans. Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in
1969 for House Made of Dawn and he won other awards for
this fascinating book.
N. Scott Momaday was born on 27 February 1934 at the Kiowa
and Comanche Indian Hospital at Lawton, Oklahoma. His
birth certificate records him as Novarro Scotte Mammedatty,
the original family surname; his father, Al Momaday, adopted
the present spelling shortly afterward. According to the
records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Momaday is
"7/8 Indian Blood."
In actuality his father was Kiowa, with perhaps a French-Canadian ancestor as well as some Mexican blood,
acquired when, as Momaday puts it, "the Kiowas ... stole people as well as horses in their heydey." His mother,
Mayme Natachee, had only one Indian ancestor, a Cherokee great-grandmother. However faint her Indian
heritage was genetically, Natachee conceived of herself as Indian and after high school enrolled in Haskell
Institute, an Indian school in Lawrence, Kansas. In The Names: A Memoir(1977) Momaday writes of her:
"She began to see herself as an Indian. That dim native heritage became a fascination and a cause for her,
inasmuch, perhaps, as it enabled her to assume an attitude of defiance, an attitude which she assumed with
particular style and satisfaction; it became her. She imagined who she was. This act of the imagination
was, I believe, among the most important events of my mother's early life, as later the same essential
act was to be among the most important of my own."
Momaday returns frequently in his writings to the theme of identity as an existential act of imagination.
Although he writes at length in The Names about his southern Anglo forebears, he once said that he "thinks
of himself as an Indian."
Momaday researched Kiowa history and culture and said that he "acquired an identity; it is an Indian identity,
as far as I am concerned."
He has also written of his keen sense of being different from Indians, who occasionally appear as the hostile
other in his imaginings. This complex set of attitudes toward cultural identity is at the heart of Momaday's
Charles, J. 2007. Reading, Learning, Teaching N. Scott Momaday. NY: Peter
Morgan, P. N. 2010. Scott Momaday: Remembering Ancestors, Earth, and Traditions An
Annotated Bio-bibliography. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
Schubnell, M. S. 1997. Conversations with N. Scott Momaday. Mississippi: University Press