This week, the staff and board of First Nations were saddened to learn of the passing of N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), a novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and poet who served on First Nations Board of Directors. He died at age 89 on January 24, 2024, in his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Momaday’s novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969 and is considered the first major work of the Native American Renaissance. His follow-up work, The Way to Rainy Mountain, blended folklore with memoir. Momaday received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 for his work in celebration and preservation of Indigenous oral and art tradition. U.S. News and World Report shares how Momaday was the first Native American to win the fiction Pulitzer, and his novel helped launch a generation of authors, including Leslie Marmon Silko, James Welch, and Louise Erdrich.
At First Nations, our hearts go out to Scott’s friends and family, as we reflect on Scott’s role in Native communities and at First Nations. “Scott’s gift as a storyteller and convener were an inspiration to fellow board members and our whole organization,” said First Nations President and CEO Michael Roberts. “His energy and insights continue to guide our culture at First Nations, and we will always value his many contributions.”
Fellow Kiowa A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations Vice-President of Research and Policy and Director of Native Agriculture and Food Systems, shares this story in Scott’s honor.
A Force for Native Lifeways
Kiowas were born into this world from a tree. From our birth place, we walked across the mountains and the plains, learning plants, learning the language of animals and wind, making agreements with the horse and buffalo nations, and carrying our children, our old ones, and our stories. We recount and we add to that history annually, together at our gatherings, where we learn of each other, place one another in family lines. We tell our children of older generations past, those waiting for us to return to them to complete a full cycle of existence.
In 2019, Scott Momaday was acknowledged during the Kiowa Gourd Clan dance. We, the women, all stood and watched as he held his shiny gourd, making enough of a rattle to let the prairie know that he had been called. The Kiowa and all the gourd dancers present stood behind and beside him, connecting him to all we held dear — our songs, our acknowledgement, our families, our own stories. He was embraced publicly in full honor as a Kiowa.
His life was filled with words, books, accomplishments, and degrees, far too many to even recount. He was the first Native author to ever be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for House Made of Dawn and launched opportunities for whole generations of Native writers. He served as a board member for First Nations Development Institute, the organization that I now serve. He was a force. He was a storyteller. He was a giant of an intellectual who history will surely embrace fondly.
I will always remember him dancing during the Oklahoma heat, in the wave of prairie grass, in moccasins, dancing with his gourd rattle held high, in rhythm, embraced in the heart of the Kiowa Nation.
We will do our best to honor all N. Scott Mamoday has contributed to First Nations, to the world, and to Kiowa people.
Hegau ém âuibòñ:[dàu