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In Memoriam: N. Scott Momaday (1934-2024)

Writer N. Scott Momaday in wheelchair, sitting against a wall akin to a log cabin.
N. Scott Momaday, CalArts 2023 honorary degree recipient, passed away on Jan. 24, 2024. | Image: CalArts

CalArts is saddened to hear of the passing of the American poet, novelist, editor, and educator N. Scott Momaday. Momaday received an honorary doctorate from CalArts in 2023, which his daughter, filmmaker Jill Scott Momaday, accepted on his behalf at last year’s graduation ceremony. CalArts honorary doctorate recipients are chosen for exhibiting high achievement in the practice or support of the arts. 

Momaday, a member of the Kiowa Nation, became the first Native American to win a Pulitzer Prize when his first novel, House Made of Dawn (1969) won the Prize for Fiction. A graduate of the University of New Mexico (BA in Political Science) and Stanford University (MA and PhD in English), he earned many notable achievements and accolades. He was named the Oklahoma Centennial Poet Laureate, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas, the National Medal of the Arts, and numerous honorary doctorates. 

Momaday authored several other novels, prose collections, a children’s book titled Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story (1994), and a collection of plays, Three Plays: The Indolent Boys, Children of the Sun, and The Moon in Two Windows. Momaday also founded the Rainy Mountain Foundation and the Buffalo Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Native American Cultures.

As CalArts’ honorary doctorate recipient, Momaday joined MFA Creative Writing students Collin Jonkman and Nicholas Barner at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a conversation addressing CalArts’ 2023 graduates and their families. Watch the video:  

Picture of Christine N. Ziemba

Christine N. Ziemba

Christine is the director of Content at CalArts, responsible for the Institute's editorial in both print and online platforms. In addition, she oversees CalArts' social media accounts. In her spare time, she writes about the Santa Clarita food scene at

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One Response

  1. It’s truly saddening to learn of N. Scott Momaday’s passing. His remarkable contributions to literature and his efforts to preserve Native American cultures leave a lasting legacy. My heartfelt thanks go to CalArts for honoring such an influential figure, and my deepest condolences to his family and admirers.

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In Memoriam: N. Scott Momaday (1934-2024)