Last Wednesday, President George W. Bush announced the recipients of the 2007 National Medal of Arts. Nine medals, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence, were presented by the President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an East Room ceremony at the White House. My Uncle, N. Scott Momaday, who is married to my Dad's older sister Barbara, was one of the recipients!
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. Each year, the Arts Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the president, who selects the recipients.
"These individuals and this organization have all made enduring contributions to the artistic life of our nation," said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia "Whether by composing profound choral works, or creating paintings of both beauty and unease, or giving us wonderful stories steeped in Native American traditions, their work has enriched our national culture."
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.
He 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 Moscow State University 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.
He has written numerous books, collections of poetry, essays, stories, plays 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.
Scott & Barbara divide their time between Oklahoma City where he is the Centennial Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma, 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.
Scott is also 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.
I am honored to call this man family. Not only for all of his academic and scholarly achievements, but also for the way he loves and cares for my Aunt. Congratulations Scott, You couldn't be more deserving!