The Jemez Springs Public Library first opened in April 1965. The 50th anniversary was celebrated with an author symposium and open house. The symposium featured two authors who had appeared in the noted series of author talks that began in 2001. They were N. Scott Momaday, who spoke at the first symposium and moderated the second, and Nasario Garcia, who spoke at the fifth symposium in 2005. Anne Hillerman was the third author. She has continued the popular mystery series written by her father, Tony Hillerman, who also spoke at the first symposium. Irene Wanner, local author and book reviewer, was moderator.
Following is the program for the 50th anniversary symposium.
Excerpts from a column by Jim Belshaw in the Albuquerque Journal, Oct. 10, 2005
I like the way that, three years ago, Morris had a grand idea about getting three literary Masters of the Universe together in Jemez Springs to talk about what they do. For free.
He thought it would be a good way to benefit the library.
The way I heard the story this past weekend, Morris offered up his idea and everyone said, ‘Sure, Morris. You go ahead and do that. Let us know when you get it lined up.’
So he did. . . .
Now I can have just a moment to talk about Morris Taylor, who is now 80, and who lives in Jemez Springs in the company of smart, thoughtful people who may spend their days in a small place but don’t entertain small ideas.
Three years ago, Morris wondered aloud if he could get N. Scott Momaday, Rudolfo Anaya and Tony Hillerman to come to the Jemez Springs [sic] High School on their own dime for the Jemez Springs Tricultural Symposium.
So he called them and asked. All three said they’d do it, and people came from all over the country to hear them.
Belshaw was one of the 2005 symposium speakers.
The program featured the poster on the cover and information about each of the authors.
Transcribed from Jemez Thunder, Feb. 15, 2002
About 500 people crowded into the Jemez Valley High School auditorium on Feb. 2 for the symposium featuring New Mexico authors Tony Hillerman, Rudolfo Anaya and N. Scott Momaday. The state’s three literary giants had never appeared on the same stage before, and people came from as far away as Seattle specifically to attend the event. The Albuquerque Journal covered the event, and radio station KUNM made a tape recording for possible future broadcast on National Public Radio.
Morris Taylor of Cañon organized the symposium as a celebration of New Mexico’s tri-cultural heritage Anglo, Chicano and Indian – as well as showcasing the literary talents of the state. The Friends of the Library helped sponsor and promote the event. Kathleen Wiegner, editor of the Jemez Thunder, acted as moderator. Hillerman is best-known for his novels about Navajo policemen working in the Four Corners area; Anaya is the author of Bless Me Ultima, and Zia Summer, among others; and Momaday, a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, is a resident of Jemez Springs whose works include House Made of Dawn and The Way To Rainy Mountain. Books were provided by Bookworks of Albuquerque, which the authors were happy to autograph for their readers, a portion of the book sales going to the Friends of the Library. There was no charge to attend the symposium.
Jemez Springs Librarian Judith Isaacs welcomed everyone to the symposium and introduced Johnnie Garcia, the Mayor of Jemez Springs, and Paul Tosa, Governor of the Pueblo of Jemez, both of whom gave welcoming addresses.
Each author began with a brief statement of introduction. Tony Hillerman responded to what he called an “FAQ” – a frequently asked question – about “Why is some redneck white guy writing about Navajo Indians?” He said that he grew up with Indians and attended Indian school. He said that society was divided into “us vs. them,” though the division was not racial or ethnic, but the difference between town kids and country kids. Hillerman said he was a country kid then, and still feels like one to this day. He said he always felt at home with the Navajos and admires their value system. Rudolfo Anaya spoke of his childhood in Santa Rosa on the Pecos River, and how he always felt closer to river valleys than to mountains. Some years ago, he bought a little house in Jemez Springs and raises fruit trees and corn on the property. It occurred to him that, in a way, he had returned to the river valley of his childhood, many years later, in the Jemez Valley.
Scott Momaday spoke of spending most of his life in Indian cultures, with the Kiowas in Oklahoma, the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area, and the Pueblo of Jemez. When he moved to the Jemez Pueblo, he said, “I woke up and beheld a new world. Marco Polo had nothing on me. I had come to my greatest adventure, my growing up.” He spoke of the Buffalo Trust, which he founded four years ago to help Native American children regain and preserve their Indian identity.
When asked about where they had learned their storytelling abilities, both Momaday and Anaya cited the oral traditions of their own cultures. “I grew up with stories, the cuentos of the Spanish tradition,” said Anaya. “Listening to them as a child was very formative. Later I loved reading them.” However, said Anaya, the oral tradition is getting lost. He said that it was important to collect the stories into books and to get them into the classroom. Momaday talked about how his father was a storyteller and told the stories of the Kiowa. “I write in the oral tradition and I also teach in that tradition,” said Momaday. “Writing gives us a false sense of security. In the oral tradition, everything is just one step removed from extinction.” Hillerman remembered his childhood in a tiny town in Oklahoma where his family were farmers and his father ran a sort of general store. “People would come to the store and tell stories,” said Hillerman. “I discovered that if you could spin a yarn, people would pay attention.”
Momaday said that he did not think of himself as an Indian writer. “I don’t know what that means,” he continued. “Literature is literature. Categories don’t mean that much to me.” Anaya, however, told the audience that he strongly identifies with being a Chicano writer. “It has been very exciting to be a part of a movement.” Hillerman said he did not think of either Momaday or Anaya as “a hyphenate” but as great writers. He said he thought of Momaday as a poet and that when he thinks of Anaya he thinks of his characters who are ” good country people, genuine human beings.”
When asked about how New Mexico had inspired them as writers, both Momaday and Hillerman talked about the state’s varied and spectacular landscape. “I like the variety of this state,” said Hillerman, “and I like a state full of empty spaces.” Anaya, however, said that if he had to make a choice between places and people, he would say that his inspiration comes from the people.
The authors then took questions from the audience, talking about their writing habits, future projects and what they read. Momaday had the audience laughing when he told them that everyone should say they have “a work in progress.” It’s like a credit card you can draw on, he said. Anaya revealed that the “Spring” book in the novels he has been writing with seasons of the year in the titles might be called “Jemez Springs.” Hillerman also amused the audience with his discussion of a pig launcher, part of the research on pipelines he is doing for a book he is working on.
The final question concerned how the events of Sept. 11 had affected each author. Hillerman got a loud ovation when he said he was concerned that the government would respond by “ripping up our Constitution. Anaya said that when he saw the towers topple, he thought of all the souls who had died unprepared. “I pray for those people,” he said. Momaday concluded by saying that the events “have made us think of human life, the planet, and our souls in a new light.”
N.M. Authors Go Back to School: Momaday, Anaya and Hillerman Participate in Symposium at Jemez Springs High by Anthony DellaFlora, Journal Staff Writer
Transcribed from Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 6, 2002
CANON – It was a once-in-lifetime-event – the first public appearance together by renowned New Mexico authors N. Scott Momaday, Rudolfo Anaya and Tony Hillerman.
Saturday’s symposium at Jemez Springs High School was more like a gathering in someone’s living room.
The living room was actually the school gymnasium, and more than 400 visitors from all over New Mexico, neighboring states and places as far as Seattle, New York City and Detroit were crammed into it. Many were standing.
The three authors conducted an intimate and humorous discussion about everything from the writing process to their reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to why they love living in New Mexico.
“It was awe-inspiring. I’m gonna run home and write a novel,” said Anaya, who, like Momaday, maintains a home in nearby Jemez Springs.
“A Pulitzer Price (winner) on one hand, Tony Hillerman on the other and I’m trying to think of what to say,” Anaya said. “It was fun; it was enjoyable and the outpouring of people who came to listen to three humble writers even makes you more humble.”
Hillerman and Momaday enjoyed themselves, too.
“It was a great honor. I respect both of them very much. They’re good writers, and it’s just nice to be in their company,” Momaday said.
The afternoon brought together Momaday, a Kiowa, whose novel “House Made of Dawn,” won the Pulitzer Prize; Hillerman, the best-selling author of a series of mystery novels set on the Navajo Reservation; and Anaya, widely recognized as the father of Chicano literature and the author of “Bless Me, Ultima.”
As visitors began filling up the auditorium more than an hour before the event, they were greeted by tables laden with the works of the prolific authors.
Most of the stock was gone by the time the authors sat down to sign their books afterward.
“It was wonderful,” said Josephine Yazza, who lives in northern Arizona. “I thoroughly enjoyed it, because it’s always nice to get a down-home thing. It feels better when you get to see them and you understand some of their stories.
“Eloquent, they were all so eloquent,” said Jemez Springs resident Judy Cunningham. “It’s so amazing to see these guys. They’re your neighbors and your friends, and they’re up there expounding all this wisdom.”
“I think it was terrific,” said Kathleen Wiegner, who moderated the discussion. “I thought the authors were forthcoming. I thought they were funny.”
Hillerman started off, for example, by answering a question he said had been posed to him before.
“How come you, a redneck white guy, is writing about Navajos, or about any kind of Indians?” he said.
Hillerman explained that he grew up in Oklahoma, among Indian children, and developed an affinity for them, which carried into adulthood.
At another point, Anaya recalled his reply to a question about the writing process.
“I don’t have any trade secrets. Go out and feel some pain,” he said.
Phyllis Morgan, who drove up from Albuquerque, spoke for many in the audience.
“This is a real treat. I’m really excited. I’ve been sick; it was like getting off my death bed,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world, even if they had to wheel me in on an operating table or a wheelchair.”
The event was organized by Friends of the Jemez Springs Library.
Transcribed from Jemez Thunder, March 15, 2000
More than 100 friends of the Jemez Springs Public Library gathered to help celebrate the Grand Opening of the newly remodeled library on Saturday, March 11. Jemez Springs Mayor David Sanchez, and State Senator Richard Romero of Albuquerque spoke briefly at an informal dedication ceremony. Senator Romero was instrumental in getting the library the $50,000 that was used for remodeling the interior of the library and adding the reading deck in the back and portale in the front. Judith Isaacs, library director, and Becky Christman, president of the Library Board, acknowledged the staff, board members, Friends of the Library and other volunteers, who not only made the party a great success, but support the library year-round. Kathleen Wiegner, past president of the Library Board, was presented with a book in appreciation of her years of service to the library.
Special events included a reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday from an unpublished work-in-progress about the Jemez Valley, music by Amber and Elliott Higgins and Beverly Musgrove, and storytime with Christine Barton. Dave Reynolds provided the sound system and taped music. Jean and Jim McClary organized the used book sale that netted around $60 for the Friends of the Library.
The library inaugurated its “Born to Read” program by presenting a book bag to Dave and Tiphanie McCray and their infant son Kelson. Each book bag contains a board book, a bib that says “Born to Read,” and pamphlets for parents. Donna Lea made and donated the bags, using materials purchased by the Friends of the Library, and is coordinating the program. If you know of a family with a new baby, call the library and let us know.
Raffle tickets were drawn throughout the day for prizes of new books, with a grand prize drawing of a pizza from Walatowa.
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.
Transcribed from Jemez Thunder, Feb. 15, 1995
As part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Village of Jemez Springs, the library is sponsoring a “community read” event featuring the work of local resident N. Scott Momaday. We are focusing on two of his books that describe the Jemez Valley: House Made of Dawn and The Names.
Scott will appear at the library from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, to read from these books and discuss his writing. The idea of a “community read” is that as many people as possible read the same book. In this case, if reading two books sounds a bit much, we urge everyone to read at least a sampling. The library has ordered extra copies.
House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Price in 1969, tell the story of a young man from Jemez Pueblo, home from World War II and caught between two worlds: one his father’s, the other of industrial America. The Names is Scott’s memoir of growing up in Jemez Pueblo.
Scott was born in 1934 in Lawton, OK, Kiowa country in southwestern Oklahoma. He spent his childhood in several different Southwestern communities (Gallup, Shiprock, Tuba City, Chinle, San Carlos, Hobbs) where he was in close contact with Navajo and San Carlos Apache, as well as Hispanic and Anglo Children. When Momaday was 12, his parents took teaching jobs at Jemez Pueblo. After studying at a Virginia military academy, Scott attended the University of New Mexico (B.A. in political science), the University of Virginia (briefly to study law), and Stanford (M.A. and Ph.D. in English). Scott is a poet, novelist, playwright, storyteller, artist, and a professor of English and American literature. He created the Buffalo Trust, a non-profit foundation for the preservation, protection and return of their cultural heritage to Native peoples, especially children.