Poet and storyteller N. Scott Momaday's mission is to help Indians preserve their identity

The noted Kiowa poet and storyteller N. Scott Momaday was in town recent to speak at Oklahoma City University. He will be the center piece of an upcoming feature-length documentary by his daughter, Jill Momaday, who also visited Oklahoma City.
by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Modified: November 5, 2012 at 11:57 am •  Published: November 4, 2012

Last week, he was in town to give presentations and readings from his books and meet with students at Oklahoma City University. His daughter drove from Santa Fe, N.M., to meet him; she talked during the interview about the documentary she's filming about her father's life and their family's journey as American Indians, past and present.

“It centers around my dad, but it's a story about the family, the Kiowa family,” she said. “It's been an extraordinary experience to be his daughter and grow up with these ideas and this dialogue and these stories.”

N. Scott Momaday believes his mission is to help preserve the integrity of the American Indian identity.

“I want the Indian to remain an Indian and appreciate what that means. We are living in a time when identity is critical. We talk about an identity crisis and everybody seems to have it but the Indian in a special way has had an identity crisis from the time of contact,” N. Scott Momaday said.

Over the years, he has witnessed the changes in the way that Americans perceive American Indians and in the way they view themselves.

“When I was growing up, Indian people were tribal people: ‘I am a Kiowa or I am a Navajo or I am an Apache,'” he said. “The tribal barriers have broken down in recent years and there's a growing sense of Indian-ness, a kind of integrity on the part of all Indian people.

“I think that's healthy so long as the individual cultural information is maintained, and that's really the problem. How do I enter the modern world but remain my Indian self?” N. Scott Momaday asked, then answered: “One does that by identifying himself, by defining himself and not allowing himself to be defined.”

by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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