The "Living Legend" N. Scott Momaday

It is no mistake that N. Scott Momaday has been called a “Living Legend.” The only Native American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Literature has many additional honors, awards and degrees; you can read about them on our website’s Bio page and see a list of his published books.

For this blog post, I want to refer to his most recent publication, an article for Smithsonian Magazine, ”The Year That the Stars Fell” (Jan. 2015 Vol. 45 No. 9).  First of all, we love this illustration for SMs “Contributors” page by artist Gaby D’Alessandro. The color palette suggests a fellow from Panama or Cuba but the vibrancy is all Momaday.

                 Smithsonian Magazine Contributor Momaday

The sidebar comment refers to another of Momaday’s honors, a 2007 National Medal of Arts "for his writings and his work that celebrate and preserve Native American art and oral tradition." It is from this expertise that he relates the story of the day he and his father, the artist Al Momaday, found a pictographic calendar among the belongings of their old family friend, Poolaw, the Elder who had given Scott his Kiowa name as an infant. The calendar art recorded “a valid idea of history, reduced to an essential concept, composed in the language of imagery,” says Momaday.

The article refers to a 1998 discovery of another calendar piece, the “Rosebud Winter Count,” found in a trunk in California and now one of the treasures in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Momaday imagines the unidentified artist at work, asking the deep questions that he’ll answer in pictures on the muslin cloth. He calls the winter counts and their relation to language a crucial link between the written and oral traditions and compares their importance to the Rosetta Stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the walls of Lascaux. According to Momaday, it is “a story to be told, of Man’s quest to know himself, composed in the language of imagery.”

Director Jill Momaday Gray has expressed her intention to honor this unfolding story in another version of “the language of imagery,” that of documentary film in the upcoming Return to Rainy Mountain.


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  • commented 2016-04-06 06:43:17 -0600
    he really is a legend for all of us, including the Lucas Trentino has published on youtube about Intelimax IQ supplement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_Q0gFFTX6U which certainly reminds you very
  • commented 2015-07-12 10:34:44 -0600
    Dr. Momaday, Words simply fail! Whether Kiowa or English, they are inadequate to express the esteem and affection so many of your fellow Americans feel for you and your family.

    Years ago you visited Lexington, Kentucky. I returned too late to my native state to hear or see you. Great regrets.

    Thank you, Thank you for the wonderful story you told on the PBS series of the gift of the horse. Each and every one us should hear that as a beautiful and solemn tribute to the human spirit. All of this is written with deep regrets as to the pain caused to native American peoples by those of us of European heritage.

    We are still much confused b our heritage which may not be Israel/Western tradition but the brilliant peoples of Mesopotamia of thousands of years before.

    One of my kinsman maybe James Burress of the Cherokee nation who ran some years ago when I was living in Los Angeles for chief of the Western Band.

    How wonderful it would be to greet you before I die. I am now 80 years of age.

    Proctor S. Burress, Lexington, KY