Oklahoma native and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, poet, playwright and professor N. Scott Momaday accepted the 2019 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize at an event held May 1 at the American Museum of Natural History.
The prize, presented by the American Prairie Reserve and named for acclaimed filmmaker Burns, whose works include “The Civil War,” “Baseball” and the forthcoming “Country Music,” recognizes an individual whose body of work has advanced our collective understanding of the indomitable American spirit.
In presenting the award, Burns said of Momaday that, “his lifetime achievements command our attention and warrant our admiration,” adding that the award was, “in part, a recognition of the courage and character of America’s Native Peoples who first knew this ‘remembered land,’ who loved it, cared for it and lost it.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Momaday’s Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel, “House Made of Dawn.”
After receiving the Prize bronze, Momaday said, “I cannot tell you how honored I am to be the recipient of this wonderful prize,” and thanked Burns by saying, “I don’t know anyone who has done more to identify and preserve our American heritage.”
Momaday also spoke of the importance of protecting native grasslands and the environment.
“Unless we reverse this trend, I think we are doomed. The Earth is our home, and we must protect this sacred land, love it and cherish it,” Momaday said. “It is important that we realize where we are in relation to time, in relation to atmosphere and Earth and the universe. If we do not do that, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.”
Burns added, “The mission of American Prairie Reserve to preserve huge swaths of northern prairie must be accompanied by an honest reckoning with the complicated human history of that habitat we seek to restore. Professor Momaday is precisely the person to help us with that reckoning.”