By James Black

I first meet Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday in the spring of 2017, through a mutual friend. The day was filled with questions and laughter.

On a fall morning in October 2018. I had coffee with Momaday. He requested a large latte. We had a really good visit drinking our coffee.

He asked me, “What do I call you, Jim or James?” I responded back, “Just James.” So, I asked him, “What do I call you?” and he said, “Just call me Scott.”

Momaday was born at the time our country was in the Great Depression and when the state of Oklahoma, and the country was experiencing one of the worst man-made natural disasters, the Great Dust Bowl. It was a really traumatic and a hard time for many of the people. Momaday was born February 27, 1934 in the Lawton Indian hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma. He’s an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. At the age of three, Momaday and his parents moved out of the dust bowl, west to Arizona to start a new life on the Navajo reservation.

After living on the Navajo reservation for a couple of years, they moved once again. This time they moved east to New Mexico to the Pueblo of Jemez where his parents taught school. Momaday attended school in Jemez until the eighth grade, because that’s the highest grade that the school system went up to at that time. Next, Momaday had to catch the bus every day to Santa Fe to attended Santa Fe Indian School, but once again he moved. This time Momaday moved further east to Virginia to attend and finish his secondary education at the Augusta

Military Academy in Fort Defiance, Virginia. Moving back west he attended the University of New Mexico and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958. He moved further west after he received a poetry scholarship to attend Stanford University and earned his master’s degree in 1960, and his Ph.D. in 1963. After graduating he landed a job at University of California Berkeley where he taught. Scott began writing his best work ever, the book entitled “The House Made of Dawn” and won the highest award in fiction writing, the Pulitzer Prize in 1969.

Now at the age of 86, Momaday is still writing, he is finishing a children’s book. In his spare time, or when taking a break from writing, he enjoys painting.

December 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of his Pulitzer prize winning book “House Made of Dawn” and he’ll be releasing an anniversary edition of the book. He gets his ambition from other people’s stories and writings, and especially from his Kiowa tradition.

Momaday image
Photo credit: Image courtesy of IAIA Archives, Santa Fe, NM

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