Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Born in the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital, Momaday was registered as having seven-eighths Indian blood (with the remaining one-eighth attributable to pioneer ancestry); his name was registered as Novarro Scotte Mammedaty, born to Mayme Scott (Natachee) and Alfred Morris (Huan-toa) Mammedaty. It was Momaday’s father who simplified the surname to its current spelling.
American Indians believe that the act of naming has the special significance of bringing the named one into existence and helping to chart his or her life course. Momaday has been granted the gifts of three separate namings. At six months of age, he was given his first Indian name by Pohd-lohk, stepfather of Mammedaty, Momaday’s grandfather, who died of Bright’s disease two years before Momaday was born. Devil’s Tower (Tsoai), Wyoming, according to Kiowa oral tradition a sacred site of mystical power, was the basis by which he was named Tsoai-talee (Rock Tree Boy) by the old man. Before Momaday was five, a Sioux elder gave him his second Indian name, Wanbli Wanjila (Eagle Alone). Later in his life he received yet a third name, Tso-Toh-Haw (Kiowa for Red Mountain).
Momaday’s mother was a teacher and a writer; his father, a teacher and an artist. Throughout Momaday’s early years, his mother shared her love of English literature with him. Although his parents...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
An award-winning poet, novelist, autobiographer, and scriptwriter, Momaday has concentrated his literary attention on that which he holds closest to his heart: the southwestern landscape, his American Indian heritage, artistic endeavor, and a synthesis of cultures. The minute detail of his passages on human and nonhuman facets of nature is masterful. His reverence for nature and his insistence that all humankind must recognize its responsibility to heal the physical and spiritual earth drive his works. He argues in varied ways that humans must first balance themselves in relation to their universe. A pioneer in creating new means through which to share Native American oral tradition, Momaday reshapes conventional written forms to serve his ends.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Six months after his birth in February, 1934, Navarre Scott Momaday was solemnly given the Kiowa name Tsoai-talee (Rock-Tree Boy) by Pohd-lohk, his step-grandfather. A year later, the Momadays moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico, and from 1936 to 1943, they lived in various places on the Navajo reservation: Shiprock, New Mexico, and Tuba City and Chinle, Arizona. Although there were stays in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Louisiana, the reservation was home. After three years near the Army Air Base at Hobbs, New Mexico, the family moved in 1946 to the pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico, where Momaday’s parents taught in the day school. Momaday lived at Jemez until his last year of high school, when he attended Augusta Military School in Virginia, from which he graduated in 1952.
Studies occupied the next eleven years. After attending the University of New Mexico and Virginia Law School, Momaday graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1958. Following a year of teaching at Dulce, on the Apache reservation, he entered Stanford University as a creative writing fellow. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1963, and in the following years taught at the University of California in Santa Barbara and in Berkeley, at Stanford, at New Mexico State University, and at the University of Arizona. It was in 1965, after the death of his grandmother, that Momaday made the journey north from Oklahoma to South Dakota that was to inspire The Way to Rainy Mountain. Shortly...
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Among the most widely read and studied Native American authors, N. Scott Momaday manifests, in his writings, a keen awareness of the importance of self-definition in literature and life. From 1936 onward, his family moved from place to place in the Southwest, eventually settling in Albuquerque, where Momaday attended high school. He entered the University of New Mexico in 1954 and later studied poetry at Stanford University. In 1963, he received his doctorate in English and since then has held teaching jobs at various Southwestern universities.
In a semiautobiographical work, The Way to Rainy Mountain, Momaday writes that identity is “the history of an idea, man’s idea of himself, and it has old and essential being in language.” Momaday defines his characters in terms of their use or abuse of language; usually his characters find themselves relearning how to speak while they learn about themselves. Even the title of one of Momaday’s essays, “The Man Made of Words,” indicates his contention that identity is shaped by language. “Only when he is embodied in an idea,” Momaday writes, “and the idea is realized in language, can man take possession of himself.”
The forces that shape language—culture and landscape—are also crucial in Momaday’s works. To Russell Martin, Western writing is concerned with the harsh...
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Biography (American Indians (Ready Reference series))
The child of a Kiowa father and a Cherokee mother, N. Scott Momaday (the N. is for Novarre) grew up in several different Indian communities. In the 1930’s, he moved with his family from rural Oklahoma to Navajo country in New Mexico and Arizona. Then, in 1946, when Momaday was twelve years old, his parents began teaching at Jemez Pueblo, where Momaday spent his adolescence. Thus, Momaday grew up an Indian child in Indian communities but was never fully integrated into those communities. Such a fragmented experience, common among contemporary Indians, has served as the focus of much of Momaday’s writing.
After attending the University of New Mexico, Momaday received a Ph.D. in American literature from Stanford University in 1963 and embarked on a distinguished career as a professor and writer. In 1969, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn (1968). His other publications include an autobiography, The Names: A Memoir (1976); a book of poetry, The Gourd Dancer (1976), illustrated with Momaday’s own sketches; and Ancient Child (1989).
Momaday’s works have often explored the power of names and the stories that accompany them. Many twentieth century Indian writers have struggled to reconcile written...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Navarre Scott Momaday (MAHM-uh-day) is perhaps the foremost writer of American Indian poetry, fiction, and historical autobiography. Of predominantly Kiowa ancestry, he was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, on February 27, 1934, to Alfred Morris and Mayme Natachee Scott Momaday. His father, an art teacher and painter, illustrated Momaday’s celebrated work The Way to Rainy Mountain. His mother was also a teacher, as well as a writer.
After living among the Kiowas on a family farm in Oklahoma, Momaday came of age in New Mexico, where his parents worked with the Jemez Indians in the state’s high mountain country. The influence of imaginative, talented parents led Momaday on the path to a fine formal education. Taking his A.B. degree from the University of New Mexico in 1958, he moved quickly the following year to Stanford University as a creative writing fellow. An excellent student, he took both his A.M. (1960) and Ph.D. (1963) degrees there. Momaday remained in academia, serving as assistant and associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1963-1969), professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley (1969-1972), and professor of English at Stanford University (1972-1980) and professor of English and comparative literature (1980-1985) before...
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IntroductionN. Scott Momaday’s novel House Made of Dawn was the first Native American book to break into mainstream American literature. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969. Momaday began his life on a Kiowa reservation and was additionally exposed to the cultures of the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo Indians because his parents were teachers on various reservations. After writing his first novel, he began teaching at the University of California at Berkeley and designed a graduate program in American Indian studies. He went on to write several collections of stories and poems as well as a play. His later books feature his own illustrations. All of his work focuses on Native American literature and mythology.
- For his doctoral dissertation, Momaday edited and annotated the complete works of American poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. Momaday had always been interested in poetry, and this was a continuation of that interest.
- In 1969, Momaday was asked to join the Gourd Dance Society, an ancient Kiowa organization.
- Momaday has been featured in several documentary films, including Ken Burns’s The West, Last Stand at Little Big Horn, and Remembered Earth: New Mexico’s High Desert.
- Momaday is the Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and was awarded the 2007 National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.
- Momaday’s grandfather fought at the battle of Little Big Horn and said, “Custer looked whiter than ever!”
Momaday was born on the Kiowa Reservation in Lawton, Oklahoma, on February 27, 1934. His father, Alfred Morris, was an artist and teacher; in fact, his artworks are used to illustrate several of Momaday's books, including his history of the Kiowa people, The Way to Rainy Mountain. His mother, Mayme Natachee Scott, taught and wrote children's books.
Momaday spent his childhood on a succession of Native American reservations, learning the cultures of the Pueblo Indians. The family eventually settled in Jemez, New Mexico, which is the model for Walatowa in House Made of Dawn.
Momaday attended military school in Virginia, and then went to college at the University of New Mexico. After graduation, he taught at the Apache reservation in Jicarilla for a year. He won a poetry scholarship to Stanford, where he studied under famed poet and literary critic Yvor Winters, who became his mentor and greatly influenced his poetic style. In 1963 he received his Ph.D. from Stanford.
House Made of Dawn, his first novel, was published in 1968. Although not commercially successful, it received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969. After that, Momaday moved to the University of California at Berkeley, where he designed a graduate program in Indian Studies. In 1982 he became a professor at the University of Arizona. He has published several books of poetry, short stories, and essays. In addition, Momaday has often displayed his...
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N. Scott Momaday was born in 1934 in Lawton, Oklahoma, to Alfred Morris Momaday, a Kiowa Indian, and Mayme Natachee Scott, who was part Cherokee. As an infant Momaday was named Tsoaitalee, or “Rock Tree Boy,” after a 200-foot volcanic butte in Wyoming (known commonly as Devil’s Tower) that is sacred to the Kiowas. As a youngster Momaday lived on several Navaho reservations and at the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, where his parents were teachers. He attended Augusta Military Academy in Virginia his last year of high school to take college prepartory classes that were unavailable at his local school. Momaday then studied at the University of New Mexico; it was there that he began writing poetry. After graduating with a degree in political science, Momaday spent a year teaching on the Jicarilla Apache reservation in Dulce, New Mexico. He returned to academic pursuits after being awarded a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University. He earned his master’s degree in 1960 and his doctorate in 1963. Momaday’s first published book, The Complete Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1965), was originally his doctoral dissertation. In 1968 Momady published House Made of Dawn, the Pulitzer Prizewinning novel for which he is most famous. Although he has published nonfiction and novels, Momaday considers himself a poet foremost and has published several books of verse. His talent also extends to drawing and painting, and these works have been...
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