Native American Author Spotlight: N. Scott Momaday

June 2001: N. Scott Momaday during the Saint Malo Book Fair in France. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

The late 1960s to 1980s are regarded as the Native American Renaissance in literary history. During this time, many literary works by Native Americans in the United States were published. This lead to national awareness of Native American writers and the development of Native American Studies departments at many notable universities. This widely celebrated movement’s creation is usually attributed to N. Scott Momaday, the spotlight Native American writer for this week.

Though born in Oklahoma, Momaday was raised in Arizona on the reservation. There, he was able to learn and experience the myriad of Southwest Native American cultures. He then went on to attend the University of New Mexico and complete his graduate schooling at Stanford University with a PhD in English.

After graduation, Momaday wrote and published his first book, House Made of Dawn, in 1968. This book later won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is regarded as the beginning of the Native American Renaissance. Much like many of the other Native American authors, Momaday’s most well-known story is of one about someone at a crossroads of cultures, that of their Native American heritage and modern America.

Through this, Momaday was able to advocate for Native American education and representation in the arts. He has supported the Native American community through writing introductions and reviews for many Native American authors, bringing attention to Native American heritage, and even making himself available to talk to students from reservations who are entering university.

He continues to work in academics. He has been a visiting professor for many universities; he even was the first professor to teach American Literature in Moscow, Russia. He is currently the Regents Professor of the Humanities at the University of Arizona. Momaday continues to be a part of the Native American community as a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan. Has this post inspired you to read Momaday? Check out one of his books today in honor of the Native American Heritage Month!

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