Oklahoma City_ N. Scott Momaday, noted Oklahoma poet, playwright, painter, photographer and storyteller, will receive the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence. Momaday is among nine recipients who will receive medals from President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush in an East Room ceremony at the White House Thursday morning.
The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is awarded by the President and managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Award recipients are selected based on their contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States.
"Scott is one of those rare individuals who belong to Oklahoma and to the world," said Betty Price, former executive director of the Oklahoma Arts Council who will be in attendance at the White House. "His generous spirit touches our lives, both Indian and non-Indian. He is among the few honored ones who have been named an official Oklahoma Cultural Treasure. His compositions allow us to see the world through his eyes and have enriched our national culture."
Momaday is only the third Oklahoman who will receive this prestigious honor. Ballerina Maria Tallchief and sculptor Allan Houser were previous recipients.
N. Scott Momaday is a renowned writer who celebrates Native American art and oral tradition in his novels and essays. A member of the Kiowa tribe, he is also a poet, playwright, painter, photographer, storyteller, and professor of English. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry named Momaday the Oklahoma Centennial State Poet Laureate at a ceremony at the Oklahoma History Center, July 12th, 2007.
Navarre Scott Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on February 27, 1934. His father Al Momaday was of the Kiowa nation and a painter. His mother, Natachee Scott Momaday, was of English and Cherokee descent and a writer. Both taught on Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico when he was growing up, exposing him to the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo Indian cultures of the Southwest. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, Momaday won a poetry fellowship to the creative writing program at Stanford University. He earned a doctorate in English literature there in 1963 and took a teaching position at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
In 1969, his first novel House Made of Dawn (1968) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and he began teaching at UC Berkeley, subsequently teaching at Stanford and the University of Arizona. In 1974, he was the first professor to teach American literature at the University of Moscow in Russia. It was during this time that he began drawing and painting seriously. Since then, his work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. including retrospective exhibits at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe in 1992 and the Jacobson House, University of Oklahoma in 2006.
Of Momaday's books, The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) and The Names (1976) emphasize the importance of landscape and heritage. His collections of poetry include most recently In the Presence of the Sun (1992) and In the Bear's House (1999). A new collection of poetry is in progress. His second novel The Ancient Child was published in 1989.
Other works include The Man Made of Words: Essays, Stories, Passages (1997), Three Plays (2007) and three children's books. He is a contributor to Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes (2006) and to both the English and French editions of Writers for Literary and The Alphabet of Hope (UNESCO 2007). UNESCO also named him an Artist for Peace in 2003. His books have been translated into seven languages. He has been a commentator on National Public Radio and a featured commentator in PBS documentaries.
Momaday divides his time between Oklahoma City and Santa Fe where he is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds 15 honorary degrees and numerous awards.
He is the founder and chairman of The Buffalo Trust, a non-profit foundation for the preservation and restoration of Native American culture, a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a founding member of the Stewardship Council of the Autry Center for the American West.
The other recipients include Morten Lauridsen, composer, Los Angeles, CA; R. Craig Noel, Old Globe Theatre director, San Diego, CA; Roy R. Neuberger, arts patron, New York, NY; Les Paul, guitarist, inventor, New York, NY; Henry Steinway, arts patron, New York, NY; George Tooker, painter, Hartland, VT; University of Idaho Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, Moscow, ID; and Andrew Wyeth, painter, Chadds Ford, PA.