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House Made of Dawn | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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N. Scott Momaday | Biography



Navarre Scott Momaday was born February 27, 1934, in Lawton, Oklahoma, to Mayme Natachee Scott and Alfred Morris Momaday. His mother's heritage was Anglo and Cherokee. His father was Kiowa. With his parents, Momaday lived on the Kiowa reservation for the first year of his life. However, his parents took teaching jobs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), jobs that necessitated a number of moves over the next few years. Consequently, Momaday lived on Kiowa, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo reservations during his childhood.


Initially Momaday attended schools on the Navajo reservation, but he ultimately attended institutions both on and off reservations. He went to four different high schools in search of a school that would prepare him for college. The fourth of these was the Augusta Military Academy in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

He received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of New Mexico (1958) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He then taught for a year on the Apache reservation at Jicarilla in New Mexico. The following year he received a fellowship for poetry to attend Stanford University in California. Momaday completed both his master of arts (1960) and doctoral degrees (1963) in English at Stanford.

Awards and Recognition

In 1962 Momaday's poem, "The Bear," received the Academy of American Poets prize. A Guggenheim Fellowship (1966–67) provided time for him to write, and in 1969 Momaday's novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

In 1978 Momaday was made a trustee of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. In 1979 he was awarded Italy's prestigious Premio Letterario Internazionale Mondello award, an international Italian literary award. In 1987 he was named to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He has been recognized with 17 honorary degrees.

Momaday has also received the Golden Plate Award for exceptional accomplishment in one's field from the American Academy of Achievement and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

He has taught at Stanford, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Berkeley and at Santa Barbara, and he has been a visiting professor at the University of Moscow, Princeton University, and Columbia University.

Native American Renaissance

The earliest works of Native American literature are part of an oral storytelling culture and have been the subject of ethnological science, or studies that address the division of humans into cultural categories, rather than literary studies. Following publication of N. Scott Momaday's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, House Made of Dawn, that understanding began to change. Due in large part to Momaday's highly regarded, complex, and evocative texts, Native American literature shifted to become the subject of significant literary interest. Literary critic Kenneth Lincoln coined the phrase "Native American Renaissance" to describe this new category of literature, and Momaday is the writer who sparked this wider interest in Native American literature.

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