Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American author, poet N. Scott Momaday dies at 89

Native American poet, author and visual artist N. Scott Momaday (L) accepts the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in 2007. File Photo by Michael Stewart/Wikimedia Commons

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Native American author, poet and visual artist N. Scott Momaday, whose novel House Made of Dawn was awarded the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, has died, his daughter said Monday. He was 89.

Jill Momaday told the Washington Post her father died at his home in Santa Fe, N.M.

N. Scott Momaday, born in Lawton, Okla., and primarily of Kiowa descent, is credited with sparking a renaissance in Native American literature with the publication in 1968 of his 200-page novel by Harper & Row.

House Made of Dawn initially received little attention in a year that featured an array of classic works by towering literary figures, but its surprise win eventually inspired what critic Kenneth Lincoln called in 1983 a new wave of Native American authors including 2021 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner Louise Erdrich, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and anthologist Duane Niatum.

Highly praised for its lyricism and mystical overtones, the book follows the story of a young Native American named Abel who, after returning from World War II, experiences the alienation of being caught between two cultures. He is torn between the traditional world of his father, which is intimately connected to the elements and ancient rituals, and that of modern America, which similarly claims his allegiance.

Because of this conflict, Abel sinks into a self-destructive cycle of alcoholism and murder and must ultimately heal himself to discover who he is.

In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Momaday the National Medal of Arts.

Shortly after his birth in 1934, Momaday's artistically inclined parents moved the family to a reservation in Arizona, where they pursued teaching careers alongside their avocations, enabling him to absorb the traditions of various Southwestern cultures. according to the Pulitzer Prize Board.

In 1946, the family relocated once again to Jemez Pueblo, N.M., north of Albuquerque, where Momaday completed much of his secondary education and continue to absorb cultural influences of the local population, including ceremonial running.

In addition to fiction, wrote poetry and children's literature and taught at Stanford University, University of Arizona, University of California-Berkeley and University of California-Santa Barbara.

He was also a visiting professor at Columbia University, Princeton University, and at Moscow State University.

Momaday was married twice, both of which ended in divorce. He is survived by two daughters from his first marriage, Jill Momaday and Brit Momaday-Leight; a daughter from his second marriage, Lore Denny; as well as grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.