N. Scott Momaday (Doctor of Letters)

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N. Scott Momaday received an honorary degree from Dartmouth in a virtual ceremony held in May.

Portrait of N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday (Photo courtesy of N. Scott Momaday)

N. SCOTT MOMADAY, as a celebrated Kiowa artist, author, poet and professor, you’ve preserved precious indigenous traditions in a resounding voice that has inspired new generations of Native American artists, writers and activists.

Born in Oklahoma in the mid-1930s, you were raised on reservations across the Southwest ensconced in books and in stories from the Kiowa oral tradition, though it was in your time at Jemez Pueblo where you developed the intense spirituality, deep connection to the land, and vivid historical imagination that would come to influence your life’s work.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1958, you earned your PhD in English literature from Stanford in 1963. Six years later, your debut novel, House Made of Dawn, about a young man’s return to the reservation after serving in World War II earned you the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, sparking what became known as the Native American Renaissance.

Over the next five decades, you continued to elevate Native American literature into American literary consciousness. You wrote soulfully of the human experience and the beauty of the American landscape, blending poetry with prose, folklore with memoir, the relationship between people and place permeating your work.

In addition to your writings, your prints, drawings, and paintings depicting Native subjects have been featured in national and international exhibitions, including a 20-year retrospective at the Wheelright Museum in Santa Fe.

For your extraordinary contributions to Native American art and literature and your lifelong commitment to the preservation, protection and promotion of Native cultures and traditions, Dartmouth is proud to award you the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters.

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