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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12 Responses to “Nonagenarian American Indian linguist”


  1. 1 Lou S. 2006 September 23 at 5:27 pm

    I honor your name and legacy. Greatest knowns your fame.

  2. 2 vuee 2006 October 1 at 9:14 pm

    House approves Esther Martinez native language bill
    http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/49919.html

  3. 3 vue 2006 December 8 at 8:10 pm

    Just waiting for President’s signature.

    Senate gives final approval to a Native languages act
    By Joel Southern, APRN, read by host Duncan Moon, APRN

    WASHINGTON, DC (2006-12-08) Without much notice earlier this week, the Senate did something that could go a long way in helping to preserve a key element of Native American cultures. It gave final congressional approval to a bill called the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Act. The bill amends the Native American Languages Act. It requires the U.S. Education Department to provide grants or enter into contracts with Native educational organizations to support language nests’, survival schools or other immersion programs.
    © Copyright 2006, APRN

    audio (MP3) available

    http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/apti/ news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1009017

  4. 4 vuee 2006 December 21 at 9:24 pm

    Esther Martinez Act: Native-languages bill becomes law
    December 15, 2006

    ALBUQUERQUE — President Bush has signed into law legislation named after an Ohkay Owingeh storyteller and linguist ”
    http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/53741.html

  5. 5 Paula Mendoza 2007 February 11 at 6:30 pm

    Aloha,
    I am looking to purchas a tewa indian dictionary to teach my children thier native language. If someone can direct me on where I can purchase a book. Please advise.

    Gracias,
    Paula Mendoza

  6. 8 Matthew J. Martinez 2007 June 17 at 4:31 pm

    In a fitting tribute to a New Mexican leader, the City of Santa Fe Library has named one of the reading rooms in honor of Esther Martinez.

    see below for article:

    http://www.santafenm.gov/cms/kunde/rts/santafenmgov/docs/566520832-05-31-2007-09-30-52.htm

  7. 9 vuee 2007 June 17 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you, Matthew, for updating us.


  1. 1 Champion of women’s rights 1910-2006 « O’Folks Trackback on 2006 October 2 at 3:50 pm
  2. 2 Pablita Velarde exhibition « O’Folks Trackback on 2007 February 19 at 8:53 am
  3. 3 Esther Martinez, nonagenarian Tewa linguist, 2008 honor « O’Folks Trackback on 2008 November 9 at 8:09 am
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