N. Scott Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday

N. Scott
Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday
1934

Native American Kiowa-Cherokee Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, National Medal of Arts

Author Quotes

For the Kiowas the beginning was a struggle for existence in the bleak northern mountains. It was there, they say, that they entered the world through a hollow log. The end, too, was a struggle, and it was lost. The young Plains culture of the Kiowas withered and died like grass that is burned in the prairie wind. . . But these are idle recollections, the mean and ordinary agonies of human history. The interim was a time of great adventure and nobility and fulfillment.

In fact Grey was nineteen. She stood not more than five feet five inches in height, but some quality of her posture made her seem taller. She was slender and supple, but her body was compact and strong. Her hair was long and thick and black, so black that it bore a purple sheen. Her eyes were striking; their color ranged from gray to green to violet. They were eyes out of an ancient myth, epic and holy; they might have been Callisto's eyes.

Sometimes, I think the best kind of poem is one in which there is an acute balance between what is humorous and that which is very serious. That balance is very hard to strike. But it can be done.

When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit.

He beholds what is there; nothing of the scene is lost upon him. In the integrity of his vision he is wholly in possession of himself and of the world around him; he is quintessentially alive.

In the beginning was the word, and it was spoken.

That's the first time I turned into a bear.

Writing is not a matter of choice. Writers have to write. It is somehow in their temperament, in the blood, in tradition.

He had been afraid of Bent, as he had been afraid of Sister Stella Francesca from the first. But then he loved her, for he was a child, and there was no one else to love.

In the distance there were the voices of children. The air was very still. Paulita Maxwell, Pete's eighteen-year-old sister, did not weep, could not, though her heart was breaking. She kept to the darkness, her eyes open wide, as if to see something there take shape, the invisible become visible. She felt her skin tighten and become as hard and brittle as pottery. She believed that if someone should touch her she would shatter.

The character of the landscape changes from hour to hour, day to day, season to season. Nothing of the earth can be taken for granted; you feel that Creation is going on in your sight. You see things in the high air that you do not see farther down in the lowlands. In the high country all objects bear upon you, and you touch hard upon the earth. From my home I can see the huge, billowing clouds; they draw close upon me and merge with my life.

He had tried in the days that followed to speak to his grandfather, but he could not say the things he wanted; he had tried to pray, to sing, to enter into the old rhythm of the tongue, but he was no longer attuned to it.

Indians are marvelous storytellers. In some ways, that oral tradition is stronger than the written tradition.

The culture would persist for a while in decline, until about 1875, but then it would be gone, and there would be very little material evidence that it had ever been.

He used both hands when he made the bear. Imagine a bear proceeding from the hands of God.

It was not an exclamation so much, I think, as it was a warding off, an exertion of language upon ignorance and disorder.

The events of one?s life take place, take place. How often have I used this expression, and how often have I stopped to think about what it means? Events do indeed take place, they have meaning in relation to things around them.

Hold hard this infirmity. It defines you. You are old. Now fix yourself in summer, in thickets of ripe berries, and venture toward the ridge where you were born. Await there the setting sun. Be alive to that old conflagration one more time. Mortality is your shadow and your shade. Translate yourself to spirit; be present on your journey. Keep to the trees and waters. e the singing of the soil.

Lola Bourne bought one of his paintings, an acrylic on paper entitled 'Night Window Man.' It was a strange piece, even to Set, and it was powerful. It was a bright green frame, a window, in which was a roiling blue and gray background, a thick, ominous depth; and from this there emerged a figure, a grotesque man with red hair and red dress, approaching. Set had begun with nothing but color in mind; it had taken form quickly and of itself, as it were. He thought well of it, but he supposed it would not sell.

The horse Dog bolted, and butterflies sprang from the grass. They rose to spangle the sky, to become the prisms and confetti of the sun, to make a wide, revolving glitter, an illumination on the air like a magnified swarm. He beat his hooves into the rosy earth, throwing up clods like hail. He raced along with his head and tail high, making a streak like smoke on the skyline. Then, dispassionately, he returned to the girl on the knoll and began to graze.

Houses are like sentinels in the plain, old keepers of the weather watch. There, in a very little while, wood takes on the appearance of great age. All colors wear soon away in the wind and rain, and then the wood is burned gray and the grain appears and the nails turn red with rust. The windowpanes are black and opaque; you imagine there is nothing within, and indeed there are many ghosts, bones given up to the land. They stand here and there against the sky, and you approach them for a longer time than you expect. They belong in the distance; it is their domain.

Loneliness is an aspect of the land. All things in the plain are isolate; there is no confusion or objects in the eye, but one hill or one tree or one man. To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun.

The journey began one day long ago on the edge of the northern Plains. It was carried on over a course of many generations and many hundreds of miles. In the end there were many things to remember, to dwell upon and talk about. "You know, everything had to begin. . . ." For the Kiowas the beginning was a struggle for existence in the bleak northern mountains. It was there, they say, that they entered the world through a hollow log. The end, too, was a struggle, and it was lost. The young Plains culture of the Kiowas withered and died like grass that is burned in the prairie wind. There came a day like destiny; in every direction, as far as the eye could see, carrion lay out in the land. The buffalo was the animal representation of the sun, the essential and sacrificial victim of the Sun Dance. When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit. But these are idle recollections, the mean and ordinary agonies of hu- man history. The interim was a time of great adventure and nobility and fulfillment. Tai-me came to the Kiowas in a vision born of suffering and despair. "Take me with you," Tai-me said, "and I will give you whatever you want." And it was so. The great adventure of the Kiowas was a going forth into the heart of the continent. They began a long migration from the headwaters of the Yellowstone River eastward to the Black Hills and south to the Wichita Mountains. Along the way they acquired horses, the religion of the Plains, a love and possession of the open land. Their nomadic soul was set free. In alliance with the Comanches they held dominion in the southern Plains for a hundred years. In the course of that long migration they had come of age as a people. They had conceived a good idea of themselves; they had dared to imagine and determine who they were.

A single knoll rises out of the plain in Oklahoma, north and west of the Wichita Range. For my people, the Kiowas, it is an old landmark, and they gave it the name Rainy Mountain. The hardest weather in the world is there. Winter brings blizzards, hot tornadic winds arise in the spring, and in summer the prairie is an anvil's edge. The grass turns brittle and brown, and it cracks beneath your feet.

I am a member of the Kiowa Gourd Dance Society; I visit sacred places such as Devil's Tower and the Medicine Wheel. These places are important to me, because they've been made sacred by sacrifice, by the investment of blood and experience and story.

Author Picture
First Name
N. Scott
Last Name
Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday
Birth Date
1934
Bio

Native American Kiowa-Cherokee Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, National Medal of Arts