Oklahoma author honored with humanities award

By Sean Murphy
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 2-08

Oklahoma’s state poet laureate saw a familiar face on the wall at the Oklahoma History Center during a tour of the museum’s exhibit on Indian cultures – his own.

N. Scott Momaday, who won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his first novel, “House Made of Dawn,” visited the museum before being honored as the 2008 recipient of the Oklahoma Humanities Award.

While touring the museum, Momaday paused before an exhibit that featured a copy of the book and a 1992 photograph of the author.

“I didn’t realize that was you,” said Dick Sharp, a volunteer docent who led Momaday on a tour of the exhibit.

It was the first visit to the museum by the 73-year-old Momaday, a Lawton native and member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

“It’s a wonderful exhibit,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to get over here for a look.”

Momaday will be the second recipient of the Oklahoma Humanities Award, presented annually by the Oklahoma Humanities Council to individuals who have made important contributions to the humanities in the state. Wilma Mankiller, the former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, was the inaugural recipient last year.

An award dinner and public presentation at the Oklahoma History Center was set a mid Febuary evening.

“His voluminous and varied works have garnered him international respect, not only for himself but also for the Native traditions that inform his work,” said OHC Executive Director Ann Thompson. “The award recognizes his contributions to our understanding of the human experience.”

Momaday also last year received a National Medal of Art from President Bush and was named Oklahoma’s 16th poet laureate by Gov. Brad Henry.

Momaday, who lives in Oklahoma City and Santa Fe, N.M., said he currently spends much of his time writing poetry and painting.

“I work on a very haphazard basis: spontaneous, as the spirit moves me,” he said.

Momaday’s mother, Natachee Scott Momaday, was a writer, and his father, Al Momaday, was well known for his paintings of Kiowa Indians.

“My father was a painter, so I came by it honestly, although later in life,” Momaday said.

He also is working on The Buffalo Trust, a non-profit foundation for the preservation of Indian heritage that is building a facility in Rainy Mountain in Kiowa County.

He said the archive and art center will feature a campground and a studio where visitors can record oral histories that will be preserved at the center.

“Perhaps we can teach some things that are slipping away,” he said.