Famed author, first Native American Pulitzer winner, to give Otis Lecture

N. Scott Momaday, whose novel House Made of Dawn earned him the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a Native American, offers the annual Otis Lecture at Bates College at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

Titled “Heritage, Healing and the Land: The Spiritual Aspect of Landscape,” the lecture is open to the public at no cost, but tickets are required for admission. Tickets can be reserved ahead by sending an olinarts@bates.edu. A reception and book signing follow the lecture. For more information, please call 207-786-6237.

The Otis Lecture is made possible by the Philip J. Otis Endowment at Bates.

A member of the Kiowa tribe, Momaday brought wide recognition to Native American literature when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969 for House Made of Dawn.The book is “almost unbearably authentic and powerful,” wrote a reviewer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Anyone who picks up this novel and reads the first paragraph will be hard-pressed to put it down.”

House Made of Dawn is the story of a young American Indian named Abel, home from a foreign war and caught between two worlds: his father’s, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons and the harsh beauty of the land; the other of industrial America, goading him into a compulsive cycle of dissipation and disgust.

Momaday was born in Lawton, Okla., in 1934 to a father who was a painter and member of the Kiowa nation, and a mother of English and Cherokee descent who was a writer. Momaday’s childhood experiences on reservations and pueblos in the American Southwest provided rich multicultural perspectives that infuse his work. His writing combines a contemporary literary approach with Native American storytelling traditions, highlighting the intimate connection between humankind and the natural world.

A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Momaday earned a doctorate in English literature from Stanford University. He has taught at the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; and the University of Arizona. In 1974, he became the first professor to teach American literature at Moscow State University, in Russia.

An essayist, novelist, playwright and poet, Momaday is also an accomplished visual artist. He is the founder and chairman of The Buffalo Trust, a nonprofit foundation for the preservation and restoration of Native American culture; a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian; and a 2007 recipient of the National Medal of Arts.

Momaday has been a featured commentator in PBS documentaries and served as the Centennial Poet Laureate for the state of Oklahoma from 2007 until 2009.

The annual Otis Lecture at Bates is funded by the Philip J. Otis Endowment, established in 1996 by a gift from Margaret V.B. and C. Angus Wurtele in memory of their son, Philip, a member of the class of 1995 who died attempting to rescue injured climbers on Mount Rainier.

In recognition of Otis’ appreciation for nature, the endowment helps support Bates programs with an environmental focus, in particular those exploring the spiritual and moral dimensions of humanity’s relationship with the environment.

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