Navarro Scott Mammedaty, a Kiowa Indian, was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on February 27, 1934, and grew up in close contact with the Navajo and San Carlos Apache communities. He received his BA in political science in 1958 from the University of New Mexico. At Stanford University he received his MA and PhD in English, in 1960 and 1963, respectively. His books of poetry include In the Bear's House (St. Martin's Press, 1999), In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961-1991 (1992), and The Gourd Dancer (1976). His first novel, House Made of Dawn (1969) won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He is author of several other novels, prose collections, the children's book Circle of Wonder (1994), and the play The Indolent Boys. He is also the editor of various anthologies and collections.
Momaday's honors include the 2019 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, awarded by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation to celebrate lifetime achievement in literature and to remind the world "that peace can be forged with words." He has also received the 2019 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize, the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, an Academy of American Poets Prize, an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Premio Letterario Internationale "Mondello," Italy's highest literary award. He is recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds twenty one honorary degrees from American colleges and universities, including Yale University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Wisconsin.
Momaday was a founding Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, and sits on the Boards of First Nations Development Institute and the School of American Research. He has taught as a tenured professor at the Universities of Stanford, Arizona, and California, Berkley, and has been a visiting professor at Columbia, Princeton, and in Moscow. He is currently the Regents Professor of the Humanities at the University of Arizona and a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan, a dance society.