N. Scott Momaday Dead at 89

Red roses on light grey tombstone outdoors. Funeral ceremony

(RightWing.org) – A prize-winning writer who blazed a trail for Native American authors has died at the age of 89. N Scott Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel in 1969. He went on to write poetry and serve as Oklahoma’s Poet Laureate.

Navarre Scott Momaday was born in the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma, on February 27, 1934. A year later his family moved to Arizona, where his parents worked as teachers on a reservation. This gave Momaday an insight into the cultures of other Native American tribes as well as his own Kiowa and Cherokee descent. When he was 12 the family moved again, this time to New Mexico. He went on to earn a BA in English from the University of New Mexico, and then a PhD in English Literature from Stanford University.

Momaday published his first book, a complete collection of 19th-century Bostonian poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman’s work, in 1965. He released his first novel, “House Made of Dawn,” in 1968. The novel tells the story of a Native American WWII veteran who returns, traumatized and alcoholic, to his New Mexico reservation after the war. The next year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and its success opened the way for other Native American novelists. Having achieved that, Momaday turned to writing poetry instead (although he published one more novel, “The Ancient Child,” in 1989 and released several collections).

As well as writing, Momaday had a long career as an academic. He started teaching at UC Santa Barbara in 1963; he went on to gain tenure there as well as at Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Arizona, and was a visiting professor at other top colleges. He continued teaching until 2015, at the University of New Mexico. He died on January 24.

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