N. Scott Momaday

Author, essayist, poet, professor, painter
The 2007 National Medal of Arts was awarded to author, essayist, poet, professor, painter N. Scott Momaday and presented by President Bush on November 15, 2007 in an East Room ceremony.
Photo by Michael Stewart for the National Endowment for the Arts


N. Scott Momaday is a renowned writer who celebrates Native American art and oral tradition in his novels and essays. A member of the Kiowa tribe, he is also a poet, playwright, painter, photographer, storyteller, and professor of English. Navarre Scott Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on February 27, 1934. His father Al Momaday was of the Kiowa nation and a painter. His mother, Natachee Scott Momaday, was of English and Cherokee descent and a writer. Both taught on Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico when he was growing up, exposing him to the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, Momaday won a poetry fellowship to the creative writing program at Stanford University. He earned a doctorate in English literature there in 1963 and took a teaching position at the University of California in Santa Barbara. In 1969, his first novel House Made of Dawn (1968) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and he began teaching at UC Berkeley, subsequently teaching at Stanford and the University of Arizona. In 1974, he was the first professor to teach American literature at the Moscow State University in Russia. It was during this time that he began drawing and painting seriously. Since then, his work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. including retrospective exhibits at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe in 1992 and the Jacobson House, University of Oklahoma in 2006. Of Momaday's books, The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) and The Names (1976) emphasize the importance of landscape and heritage. His collections of poetry include most recently In the Presence of the Sun (1992) and In the Bear's House(1999). A new collection of poetry is in progress. His second novel The Ancient Child was published in 1989. Other works include The Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages (1997),Three Plays (2007) and three children's books. He is a contributor to Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes (2006) and to both the English and French editions ofWriters for Literary and The Alphabet of Hope (UNESCO 2007). UNESCO also named him an Artist for Peace in 2003. His books have been translated into seven languages. He has been a commentator on National Public Radio and a featured commentator in PBS documentaries. Momaday divides his time between Oklahoma City where he is the Centennial Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma, and Santa Fe where he is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds 15 honorary degrees and numerous awards. He is the founder and chairman of The Buffalo Trust, a non-profit foundation for the preservation and restoration of Native American culture, a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a founding member of the Stewardship Council of the Autry Center for the American West.