N. Scott Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday

N. Scott
Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday

Native American Kiowa-Cherokee Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, National Medal of Arts

Author Quotes

Before there were horses the Kiowas had need of dogs. That was a long time ago, when dogs could talk.

I simply kept my goal in mind and persisted. Perseverance is a large part of writing.

Once there was a man who owned a fine hunting horse. It was black and fast and afraid of nothing. When it was turned upon an enemy it charged in a straight line and struck at full speed. . . But, you know, that man knew fear. Once during a charge he turned that animal from its course. That was a bad thing. The hunting horse died of shame.

There were always dogs about my grandmother's house. Some of them were nameless and lived a life of their own. They belonged there in a sense that the word "ownership" does not include. The old people paid them scarcely any attention, but they should have been sad, I think, to see them go.

Dwight Dicks was sullen. He and his son, Murphy, were cleaning out the stalls in the barn. Dwight was a large, rawboned man, standing well over six feet, with a huge, balding head and huge hands. His face was weather-beaten; he seemed always, day or night, to be looking into the sun, squinting, his great mouth forever open in a grimace that was almost like a smile; there were prominent gaps among his yellow teeth, and his large lips were parched and purple. His thick legs were spread apart, and he wheezed as he worked. Murphy was eighteen, almost as tall as his father, with a thick shock of reddish-brown hair and a bland, agreeable face. He was lanky, and his body was hard and corded with muscle. Although there were resemblances between them, it would have been hard to imagine that the boy might one day look like his father.

I sometimes think the contemporary white American is more culturally deprived than the Indian.

One of the boys held the calf's liver - still warm and wet with life - in his hand, eating of it with great relish.

This native vision, this gift of seeing truly, with wonder and delight, into the natural world, is informed by a certain attitude of reverence and self-respect. It is a matter of extrasensory as well as sensory perception, I believe. In addition to the eye, it involves the intelligence, the instinct, and the imagination. It is the perception not only of objects and forms but also of essences and ideals.

Even as the singer sees into the immediate landscape, he perceives a now and future dimension that is altogether remote, yet nonetheless real and inherent within, a quality of evanescence and evolution, a state at once of being and of becoming.

I wonder if, in the dark night of the sea, the octopus dreams of me.

Remembered once having seen a frightened buck on the run, how the white rosette of its rump seemed to hang for the smallest fraction of time at the top of each frantic bound--like a succession of sunbursts against the purple hills.

To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion.

For the European who came from a community of congestion and confinement, the West was beyond dreaming; it must have inspired him to formulate an idea of the infinite. There he could walk through geologic time; he could see into eternity.

If coupling should but make us whole and of the selfsame mind and soul, then couple let's in celebration; we have contained the population.

Set studied the drawing and applied paint carefully to Grey's face. His had was not steady, but he did a reasonably good job under the circumstances. She was standing so close, looking into his eyes, and her skin was so smooth - and she was so beautiful. What he was doing seemed a very honorable and dignified and intimate thing. There was a slight cleft in her chin, and the daub left the impression of two opposing, black half-moons. Jessie and Milo were looking on with interest and approval. Milo had emerged from the tent in the full regalia of the society. He wore a roach headdress, a brilliant red and blue cape, and long black stockings. Even in this impressive uniform, he was a comic caricature of a warrior. Like Worcester Meat, Milo was an original.

We perceive existence by means of words and names. To this or that vague, potential thing I will give a name, and it will exist thereafter, and its existence will be clearly perceived. The name enables me to see it. I can call it by its name, and I can see it for what it is.

For the Kiowas the beginning was a struggle for existence in the bleak northern mountains. It was there, they say, that they entered the world through a hollow log. The end, too, was a struggle, and it was lost. The young Plains culture of the Kiowas withered and died like grass that is burned in the prairie wind. . . But these are idle recollections, the mean and ordinary agonies of human history. The interim was a time of great adventure and nobility and fulfillment.

In fact Grey was nineteen. She stood not more than five feet five inches in height, but some quality of her posture made her seem taller. She was slender and supple, but her body was compact and strong. Her hair was long and thick and black, so black that it bore a purple sheen. Her eyes were striking; their color ranged from gray to green to violet. They were eyes out of an ancient myth, epic and holy; they might have been Callisto's eyes.

Sometimes, I think the best kind of poem is one in which there is an acute balance between what is humorous and that which is very serious. That balance is very hard to strike. But it can be done.

When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit.

He beholds what is there; nothing of the scene is lost upon him. In the integrity of his vision he is wholly in possession of himself and of the world around him; he is quintessentially alive.

In the beginning was the word, and it was spoken.

That's the first time I turned into a bear.

Writing is not a matter of choice. Writers have to write. It is somehow in their temperament, in the blood, in tradition.

He had been afraid of Bent, as he had been afraid of Sister Stella Francesca from the first. But then he loved her, for he was a child, and there was no one else to love.

Author Picture
First Name
N. Scott
Last Name
Momaday, fully Navarre Scott Momaday
Birth Date

Native American Kiowa-Cherokee Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, National Medal of Arts