Esther Martinez

Native American storyteller
Older woman with gray hair and glasses wearing purple sweater against a white wall

Photo courtesy of artist


Esther Martinez, also known as P'oe Tswa (Blue Water), is a storyteller, linguist, and teacher who has been a major conservator of the Tewa language of the Northern Pueblos of New Mexico. She spent much of her childhood living with her grandparents and traveling back and forth in a covered wagon to visit her parents.

Martinez, who is often affectionately referred to as Ko'oe (Aunt) Esther, taught the Tewa language in the San Juan Peublo schools from 1974-1989. She compiled Tewa dictionaries for each of the pueblos, as each has a distinct dialect, and she worked with the Wycliffe Bible translators to translate the New Testament into Tewa. Most importantly though, she has maintained the various forms of Tewa oral and artistic expression so important to her community.

Since 1988, Martinez has also been presenting her stories in English to non-Tewa audiences through Storytelling International. In 1997 she received the Teacher of the Year award from the National Council of American Indians and in 1998 the New Mexico Arts Commission gave her the Governor's Award for Excellence.