An Alaskan writer’s new book has gotten a nod from the American Library Association’s prestigious Newbery Award.
KOTZ’s Desiree Hagen reports, the book is a retelling of an Iñupiaq story that was lost for nearly a century.
Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (Iñupiaq) lives in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a community of about 300 people roughly 70 miles above the Arctic Circle.
The 46-year-old author and illustrator published her first book Eagle Drums last September.
The book is the retelling of the first Messenger Feast, a traditional mid-winter gathering that celebrates Iñupiaq dance, art, and storytelling.
The festival died out after Presbyterian missionaries came to the Arctic, but was revived in the late 1980s.
“So it’s a feast that celebrates connection with each other, but also how our people got music, and song and dance from the eagles.”
Hopson’s book follows a young hunter named Piŋa who is kidnapped by a giant eagle.
Taken to the eagle’s village, Piŋa learns practical wisdom and drumming along with traditional Iñupiaq values like sharing, community, and avoiding conflict while living among giant eagles who frequently shapeshift into humans.
Interspersed between pages are Hopson’s colored pencil illustrations guiding the narrative.
Hopson says her two daughters were her biggest inspiration for the book.
”I think it’s important that we create things for our kids to see themselves in.”
Her book has already received several awards including the American Indian Youth Literature honor, which recognizes the best writing and illustration by and about Indigenous Peoples.
Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday’s legacy is being remembered after his recent death in Santa Fe, N.M.
His first published novel House Made of Dawn made him the first Native American to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Hannah Bissett has more.
N. Scott Momaday, or Tsoai-talee, which means Rock Tree Boy, was an author, poet, painter, and lecturer.
He often wrote about his experience as an Indigenous person in modern times.
In the 70s, that was uncommon, according to his close friend and coworker, Shirley Sneve.
Sneve, who worked with Momaday on several projects throughout the years, remembered the impact he made with his first book.
“That was a game changer in history that he was able to tell this intimate story about the experience of a warrior in modern times and what that legacy left in that story, left for the Kiowa Nation.”
At the time of publishing House Made of Dawn, the understanding of PTSD for veterans was slim to none.
Sneve says that Momaday’s ability to write this story resonated with veterans coming home from war.
“To be able to hear a story and think to themselves, oh my gosh. that’s my story. Now I understand why I feel the way we do.”
They met on the PBS program American Masters, where Momaday was the star of an episode.
“I always wanted to get some story from one of our famous people on that program, because after all we are the original American masters.”
To make that happen, she began the work for the episode, including the search for an all-Kiowa production team.
“His way of storytelling has just really honored the Kiowa legends. So, I was just really grateful that we were able to put that documentary together with American Masters so, we could honor the legacy of this great poet and writer.”
Momaday also wrote stories of children’s literature and taught at a variety of universities.
He was also an illustrator, particularly in watercolor, which is highlighted in several of his poetry books.
He passed away on January 24 in his home at the age of 89.
Momaday is survived by his two daughters and their children.
Listen to Native America Calling’s Commemoration of Momaday’s life with special guests Jill Momaday (Kiowa), Jacob Tsotigh (Kiowa), Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), Heid E. Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), and Jeffrey Palmer