“A great writer needs your help”

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Momaday

Momaday as a Stanford prof in the 1970s. (Photo credit -- Chuck Painter)

On Monday, the Native News Update of “News from Indian Country” announced that the Pulitzer-prizewinning novelist N. Scott Momaday is in ill health and uncertain financial circumstances. According to the TV station, the 75-year-old Kiowa writer is suffering from the debilitating side-effects of diabetes and “now requires 24/7 home health care that has drained his personal finances as well as those of the caregiver organization that had been subsidizing those services for some time.”  You can hear the news towards the end of the broadcast here.

My former editor at the Georgia Review, ASU’s Terry Hummer, posted a letter on his Facebook page from Holly YoungBear-Tibbetts:  “A Great Writer Needs Your Help.”  The letter is being circulated within the Native American community, urging support for one of its “Living Treasures.” She added, “It will be some time before Mr. Momaday is fully recovered and able to resume his work and that is why I’m writing to ask you to consider making a personal contribution to the care-giver service Coming Home Connection, a nonprofit Santa Fe based home health care service provider.”

Personal checks to Coming Home Connection, designated for the N.Scott Momaday Fund, should be mailed to: Coming Home Connection, 418 Cerillos Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Or donate online at the Coming Home Connection website.

Momaday spoke memorably at Stanford two years ago — I quoted him here:

Momaday said the Kiowa stories he told had never been written down prior to his own efforts. Over the years, he has come to realize “how fragile some of these stories are—and how important they are.”

“I believe they need to be told,” he said, responding to a query about the need to continue telling stories even after they are already in print. “Poetry needs to be told and it needs to be heard. I have lived with certain poems all my life, and I still haven’t come to the end of them.” The page is just “one way of getting them out,” and not necessarily the most interesting, he said.

Momaday noted that some critics had called Rainy Mountain his “spiritual autobiography.” He added, “The more I think about it, there’s something to it.” The stories “made me who I am, and will make my children who they are.”

One student found Momaday’s approach difficult and fragmented, and claimed he had a hard time understanding Kiowa culture from it. He asked what Momaday’s purpose was. The author answered, “I wanted to tell the story of the coming of a people to the full realization of their destiny.”

Responding to a question about how he knew when his story was coming to an end, Momaday answered, “I didn’t have a sense of it coming to an end. It’s a wheel: Myth becomes history becomes reminiscence becomes myth. All stories are contained in other stories.”


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