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Jill Scott Momaday

2022 Jim & Linda Burke Visiting Scholar


Jill Momaday - Visiting Scholar

Jill Momaday is a mother, actor, writer and filmmaker whose film, Return to Rainy Mountain (PBS), documents her Kiowa heritage and life in the arts as the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, N. Scott Momaday. Raised in an artistic and literary family, Jill studied theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico and modeled in New York and Paris. Her film credits include Tony Hillerman's Coyote Waits, directed by Jan Egglesen and produced by Robert Redford; The Desperate Trail, directed by Paul Pesche; and Silent Tongue, written and directed by Sam Shepard.


Jill's work as a public presenter and communications catalyst includes performing as Master of Ceremonies for such diverse entities as Santa Fe CONNEXT’s “Earth Dialogues,” the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Buffalo Trust Foundation, the New Mexico Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Film Festival, the Buffalo Thunder Resort, The New Mexico Land Conservancy, and the Santa Fe Symphony in which she performed "A Lincoln Portrait."


New Mexico Women in the Arts honored Jill at a gala celebration in support of her film and her work for the arts in New Mexico. Jill served as Chief of Protocol in New Mexico’s Department of Cultural Affairs from 2005 to 2010 with Governor Bill Richardson. Her knowledge of New Mexico’s cultural diversity and her involvement in the arts gave Jill an advantage as an Ambassador and Cultural Liaison.


Jill is passionate about her Native American heritage and the Kiowa oral tradition, and her experiences have instilled in her a desire to inspire other people, especially women, to follow their dreams and be empowered by their own stories. As a speaker, she uses her tenacity and problemsolving filmmaker skills to motivate listeners to take action in their own endeavors. Some topics include:


“Weaving Legend, Legacy and Landscape through Filmmaking”

“Storytelling: the thread that connects humanity”

“The female voice: wisdom, emotion, and intuition”

“Bringing people together, moving through cultures”

“Now it’s time you do this”

“Earth Dialogues”


Jill Momabay on stage with panel

Jill joined a panel at the 2017 Santa Fe Independent Film Festival as they gave their “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Dr. Momaday, joined by filmmakers Kirk Ellis (John Adams) and Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals), both consultants on her film which premieredat the event.



Jill Momaday on magazine cover


A cover story in Santa Fe’s Local Flavor magazine

 told the background story

of Jill’s film and her inspiration:


For two years in the early ’90s, Jill drove every week to Jemez Springs to visit her Grandmother Natachee. “I’d bring a bag of groceries, a nice bottle of red wine, and it would be just her and me. We’d sit all day, telling stories. I was searching, learning who I was through my grandmother and my dad, connecting with old places, people and their way of life. Each time I drove away, I’d have tears streaming down my face, thinking, I have to preserve these stories that are so important to who I am.” - Local Flavor, August 2015


Jill Momaday using video cameraJill enjoys the medium of filmmaking as a personal and visual way of expressing storytelling. “I love to tell a visual story by weaving the many elements of language, character, landscape, music, visual arts, in such a way that can move people. I articulate the meaning and essence of these stories to bring them forward in a contemporary and artistic way for new and future generations.”


Jill has two talented and beautiful daughters, Natachee and Tai, with former husband, renowned painter and musician Darren Vigil Gray, who are following in the footsteps of the Momaday-Gray family in their own artistic and literary endeavors.

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