N. Scott Momaday Lesson Nine The Way to Rainy Mountain
N. Scott Momaday
Navarre Scott Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma and spent the first year of his life at his grandparents' home on the Kiowa Indian reservation, where his father was born and raised. When he was one year old, Scott's parents moved to Arizona. His father was a painter. His mother, who is of English and Cherokee descent, became an author of children's books. Both worked as teachers on Indian reservations when Scott was growing up,
and the boy was exposed not only to the Kiowa traditions of his father's family but to the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest. Momaday early developed an interest in literature, especially poetry. After graduation from the University of New Mexico, and a year of teaching on the Apache reservation, Momaday won a poetry fellowship to the creative writing program at Stanford University.
Under the guidance of poet and critic Yvor Winters, Momaday earned a doctorate in English literature in 1963, and accepted a teaching post at the University of California. He has garnered critical acclaim for his focus on Kiowa traditions, customs and beliefs, and is also recognized as one of the most successful contemporary Native American literary figures. Momaday's writings are greatly influenced by oral tradition. He is professor of English at the University of Arizona, and a consultant of the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts since 1970.
His novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969.
As the novel House Made of Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize, American Indian literature which was seldom paid attention to by scholars became one necessary branch of American Literature. That is to say, American Indian literature began to speak. And a lot of excellent writers appear.
The American literary world offers no greater award than the Pulitzer Prize. In 1969 the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to House Made of Dawn , a first novel from an unknown author. This was unusual enough; even more surprisingly, to some observers, the winner was a Kiowa Indian who had grown up largely in the reservations and pueblos of the Southwest, far from supposed centers of learning and letters.
As a whole world of readers and critics were soon to learn, there are no limits to N. Scott Momaday's talents or his vision. As novelist, scholar, painter, printmaker and -- above all -- poet, Momaday's work has encompassed a panorama as wide as the western landscapes he celebrates. In Momaday's work and career, we see an extraordinary fusion of modern Anglo-American literary methods and classical prosody, with Native American traditions of poetry and story-telling.
Through his novels, poems, plays, books of folk tales and memoirs, essays and speeches, he has won international respect, not only for himself, but for the Native traditions that inform his work. At the same time, he has helped to reacquaint the modern world with an ancient understanding of the intimate connection between humankind and the natural world.
The buffalo is more than an animal. It is the sun’s shadow. Our lives are bound to it. If it lives, we live. If it dies, we die. It is our life and our living shield.