N. Scott Momaday, a captivating storyteller long considered “the dean of Native American letters,” is the new recipient of the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize.
Established in 2016, the young prize honors artists, authors, educators, filmmakers, historians, and scientists “whose body of work has advanced our collective understanding of the indomitable American spirit.” Momaday is its third honoree. Born a Kiowa 83 years ago in Lawton, Oklahoma, Momaday is an artist, essayist, novelist and professor who identifies first as a poet. He accepted the Anisfield-Wolf lifetime achievement award in September. His 1969 novel, House Made of Dawn, won a Pulitzer Prize and ushered in a new chapter of American literature that explored contemporary indigenous lives.
“I am truly honored to be named the recipient of the 2019 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize and left speechless by this recognition,” Momaday said in a statement. “None of us lives apart from the land entirely and I am deeply concerned about conservation. I fully support American Prairie Reserve’s remarkable and courageous effort to preserve a disappearing landscape that is sacred to so many Native Americans.”
American Prairie Reserve’s mission is to create the largest nature reserve in the continental United States, now nearly 400,000 acres in northeastern Montana. Momaday will accept the prize on May 1 in New York City. Watch a snippet of last year’s ceremony honoring the 2018 recipient, artist Maya Lin. The inaugural prize went to historian David McCullough.