- By Levi Rickert
Momaday is credited with a resurgence of Native American literature and earned his place as the founding member of the “Native American Renaissance.” After receiving the Pulitzer Prize, he wrote “The Way to Rainy Mountain” in 1976.
Throughout his illustrious career, he became known for Indigenous oral tradition, which he taught during his 35 years as an educator. Momaday earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Stanford University and went on to teach at several universities, including the University of California-Santa Barbara and the University of California-Berkeley. He retired as Regents Professor at the University of Arizona.
In 2007, Momaday was presented a National Medal of Arts award by President George W. Bush. At the time of the award presentation, the White House said Momaday was given the award for “for his writings and his work that celebrate and preserve Native American art and oral tradition.”
Palmer, who teaches film at Cornell University, told Naive News Online on Monday that he worked with Momaday for three and half years to complete the documentary, which allowed him to spend a lot of time with the author.
"He made Native American literature and storytelling palatable to the rest of the world. He opened countless doors of Native American storytellers," Palmer said. "He was a changemaker and an icon. For the Kiowa people it was profound to see our stories told to the rest of the world. I put Momaday up there with Whitman and Faulkner. He was a great American writer, not only a Native American writer."
Born on February 27, 1934, in Lawton, Oklahoma, at the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital, Momaday’s father was full-blooded Kiowa, and his mother was Cherokee, English, Irish, and French. He spent several years growing up at the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, which influenced much of his writing.
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