Archive for September 18th, 2006

Nonagenarian American Indian linguist

By DON PACE | Associated Press, August 28, 2006

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) – Esther Martinez was born the year the Titanic sank and New Mexico became a state.

Her American Indian name is P’oe Tsawa, or Blue Water, the name her friends and family call her. Martinez, 94, is a renowned storyteller from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. …

Binford said her mother has written many storybooks, wrote the Tewa dictionary which is still in use in Tewa speaking pueblos, and numerous curriculum guides for the bilingual education program.

Martinez will be honored with the National Heritage Fellowship Award in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12 for her work in preserving the Tewa language.

Esther Martinez

Tragically, Ms Martinez was killed by a drunk driver on 16 September 2006, as she was driven home from the return flight from DC.

Esther Martinez was known for her career in education, which didn’t begin until she was in her 50s. A mother of 10, she served as Ohkay Owingeh’s Tewa instructor and director of bilingual education for more than 20 years.

…Among Blue Water’s many recognitions are a Living Treasure Award from the state of New Mexico, the Indian Educational Award for Teacher of the Year from the National Council of American Indians and the New Mexico Arts Commission Governor’s Award for excellence and achievement in the Arts…. She was a major conservator of the Tewa language, teaching her native language from 1974 to 1989 at schools in Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo. …She also helped translate the New Testament of the Bible into Tewa and compiled Tewa dictionaries for pueblos that have distinct dialects of the language, the NEA said.

Since 1988, Esther Martinez told her stories in English to non-Tewa audiences through Storytelling International.

More recently, she was presented an honorary Bachelor of Arts in early education by Northern Community College in Espanola….

For more background on Martinez, check out the following link:

Also, an audio version of stories can be found at the National Endowment for the Arts website:


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