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Esther Martinez, nonagenarian Tewa linguist, 2008 honor

For more on the remarkable Ms Martinez see the earlier post

Esther Martinez: ‘A way to honor her spirit’ Historical roadside marker celebrates Tewa linguist and renowned storyteller
11/8/2008 – 11/9/08
OHKAY OWINGEH — New Mexico honored Ohkay Owingeh storyteller and Tewa linguist Esther Martinez Blue Water (P’oe Tsáwä) on Saturday by unveiling a new roadside marker at the pueblo north of Española.

“It is an honor to have a marker that recognizes her contributions to her pueblo and to others,” said Martinez, speaking to the large crowd gathered at the site along N.M. 68. “She was a person steadfast to the end.”

The wooden marker is the second of 55 that will be installed around the state in recognition of influential New Mexico women. .. The marker program was conceived by three women — Pat French, Beverly Duran and Alexis Girard. They created the New Mexico Historic Women Marker Initiative and lobbied the Legislature to fund the project.

“As we drove around the state, we realized all the historic markers up and down the road were all for men,” French said Saturday as she waited for the cutting of a silver ribbon around Martinez’s marker. “This is to create a better balance.”

Martinez, born in 1912, was known as an exceptional storyteller. Her family said she could use almost anything as the source of a good yarn, even everyday events. “My mother’s stories had such life and character,” daughter Josephine Binford said with a chuckle. “You could see what she described. When she spoke, it was like she cast a spell.”

… Martinez received many national honors for her work in preserving the language and stories of her people. She taught Tewa in the Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) schools for years and created a Tewa dictionary. She traveled widely to share stories with non-Pueblo people. She received the Teacher of the Year award from the National Council of American Indians in 1997 and a year later was given the Governor’s Award for Excellence.

In 2006, Martinez was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts.


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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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