“The Night Sky at Coppermine”

From N. Scott Momaday's New and Selected Poems

March 10, 2020  By N. Scott Momaday
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At Coppermine we landed in order to take on fuel. We
had come down from Holman Island and were on our
way to Yellowknife. It was the middle of the night. The
plane seated ten or twelve passengers, as I recall, but there
were only five on board. We had been buffeted about in
the wind and snow, and I was feeling the effects. I did
not feel like moving from my seat, but at the same time I
thought that a blast of cold fresh air might do me good,
and I could at least stretch my legs. When I came to the
door, the wind was rushing in with such force that I was
nearly knocked backward. I braced myself and struggled
out on the stairway. Then my breath caught in my throat.
The Northern Lights were hanging, roiling, whipping
on the sky, descending squarely upon me. The shock of
this magnificent light show was greater than that of the
icy wind, and I was stunned again. But nothing could
distract me from what I was seeing: the snowy night sky
unraveling into great ribbons of dancing color. I had seen
the Northern Lights before, but they were never like these.
It was an event of great spiritual moment, such as children
know in their wonder and innocence. It was Christmas in
the universe.

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Excerpted from The Death of Sitting Bear by N. Scott Momaday. Copyright 2020 by N. Scott Momaday. Published with permission from Harper and HarperCollins Publishers.




N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday is an internationally renowned poet, novelist, artist, teacher, and storyteller whose works celebrate and preserve Native American heritage. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Academy of American Poets Prize, the National Medal of Arts, the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation’s Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. A longtime professor of English and American literature, Momaday earned his PhD from Stanford University and retired as Regents Professor at the University of Arizona. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.








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