By Kathleen Wiegner, from Jemez Thunder, October 01, 1996


Natachee Scott Momaday, a longtime resident of Jemez Springs, died on Sept. 26 in Santa Fe. She was 83 years old.

Born in 1913, Natachee was named for her Cherokee great-grandmother, and grew up in Kentucky. Her father, Theodore Scott, was a sheriff. Her mother died when she was nine years old. She learned to shoot and ride and she wanted to write about Indians. In an article written by Jemez Springs writer Linda Vozar Sweet for New Mexico magazine (January, 1994), Natachee told the writer: “My dad always had good horses. I got on a horse when I was three-and-a-half years old. I spent many hours in the saddle.”

Natachee’s son, the Pulitzer Prize winning author N. Scott Momaday, writes of his mother in his book The Names: A Memoir: “In 1929, my mother was a Southern belle; she was about to embark upon an extraordinary life. It was about this time she began to see herself as an Indian. That dim native heritage became a fascination and a cause for her….She was already a raving beauty….Her cousins who were plain, called her the Queen of Sheba, which pleased her mightily. But she was more particularly Natachee, or “Little Moon,” as she sometimes said, and she drew a blanket about her and placed a feather in her hair.”

When she was in her 20s, Natachee moved to Gallup with her husband, the Kiowa painter Alfred Momaday. They taught at various schools on the Navajo Reservation. These experiences were the source of children’s book, Owl in the Cedar Tree, which was published in 1965 and reissued in recent years by University of Nebraska Press. She was also a painter, although as she told New Mexico magazine: “I don’t think my painting is too hot. I write better than I paint.”

A transfer brought the Momadays to the Pueblo of Jemez, where Natachee spent 23 years teaching elementary school. Alfred Momaday died in 1982, but Natachee continued living in the Jemez, in a 100-year-old house in Jemez Springs. She called the house, made of river rock and adobe, Stonehenge. As she told New Mexico magazine: “My favorite book is Wuthering Heights. The mood in that book is part of me. “

She is survived by her son; granddaughter Cael Momaday, Jill Momaday Vigil- Gray and husband Darren. Brit Momaday and Lore Momaday, all of Santa-Fe; great- granddaughters Sky Momaday, Luke Momaday and Natachee Momaday Vigil-Gray, all of Santa Fe. Internment services will be private.