P'oe Tsáwä Blue Water Esther Martinez

Los Angeles Times. September 24, 2006.
At a government-run boarding school for Indians in the 1920s, Esther Martinez was not allowed to speak Tewa, her native language. Nor could she listen to the kinds of traditional tales her grandfather told her.

The goal of the school was to assimilate Native Americans, and that meant leaving the past — the stories and language — behind. But Martinez never did.
The language and stories remained a part of her life. As an adult she became a teacher of the language and compiled a dictionary to help others learn it. And she became a storyteller, keeping alive the stories her grandfather passed down to her and creating her own.

"Esther has been a keeper of the language central to Pueblo expression and identity as well as a storyteller whose traditional tales both enlighten and entertain," said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, which on Sept. 14 honored Martinez as a 2006 National Heritage Fellow, the highest recognition in the folk and traditional arts.

Two days later Martinez was killed in a car accident caused by a driver suspected of being drunk. The accident occurred in Espanola, N.M., as she and her family returned home from the NEA ceremony, said Det. Sgt. Christian Lopez of the Espanola Police Department. She was 94.

You can hear her telling stories.