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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

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•  Using the Video
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Activities: Author Activities

N. Scott Momaday - Teaching Tips

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  • Students may be surprised by the innovative format of Momaday's autobiography and by the way that he moves between myth and personal recollections. In an interview for American Passages, Momaday notes that "the voices are all around us, the three voices. You have the mythic and the historical and the personal and then they become a wheel, they revolve, they alternate. . . . Myth becomes history becomes memoir becomes myth." Ask students to prepare for a discussion on The Way to Rainy Mountain by reviewing the Momaday interviews in the archive.

  • Today over 11,000 Kiowa live on their reservation in Oklahoma, but Kiowa oral tradition tells of how the Kiowa originally lived and hunted in what is now Montana. The Kiowa are a Plains Indian community. Traditionally, Kiowa have lived in tipis; they have ridden horses since their introduction in the seventeenth century, and each of the six bands has its own Sun Dance ritual. Most Kiowa stories about the self customarily took the form of what critic Hertha Wong has called "communo-bio-oratory"-that is, community-life-speaking (for more on this see Unit 1). These tales include oral stories of counting coup, narrative paintings on tipis and Buffalo hides, and ledger books and pictorial calendars from the late nineteenth century. As early as the nineteenth century, Kiowa art was commissioned for exhibitions. Some of this work, along with more recent drawings, can be seen in the Smithsonian. This tradition has continued into the twentieth century and can be seen in the work of writers such as N. Scott Momaday, as well as paintings by the Kiowa Five of the "Oklahoma school": Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, and Monroe Tsatoke, all of whom studied at the University of Oklahoma in the late 1920s. You may find it helpful to begin a discussion of Momaday's work by analyzing the way that a ledger book, winter count, or painted hide functions as a communo-bio-oratory.

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