Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday (pronounced Ma-ma-day) once wrote of the desert Southwest: it was a land that has to be seen to be believed, and perhaps it has to be believed in order to be seen.
A poet and painter, Momaday is fascinated by the spiritual ties that bind us to our environment. Of Kiowa (Pronounced Kai-o-wa) and Comanche descent, he grew up on various reservations in the Southwest as his parents taught in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. His work often focuses on crosscurrents of culture that wash over Native Americans struggling to maintain their identity.
In his novel House Made of Dawn, Momaday describes a young J mez Pueblo man returning from World War Two. His rocky homecoming illuminates the difficult relations between two cultures. The protagonist experiences days and years without meaning, of awful calm and collision, time always immediate and confused. Only at the end does he embrace his heritage.
The novel won Momaday the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and underlined his belief in the importance of storytelling as a timeless tradition that binds generations and cultures.
In one essay he describes the ancient tale embedded in a gallery of Utah rock paintings: We do not know the story, but we see its enactment on the face of the earth, he wrote. It reaches from the beginning of time to the present to a destiny beyond time. We do not know what the story means, but more importantly we know that it means, and that we are deeply involved in its meaning.