The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

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In honor of Esther Martinez, master storyteller

On September 19 U.S. Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in honor of Ohkay Owingeh master storyteller Esther Martinez.

The following is the text of Udall's statement as it was recorded for the Congressional Record.

Mr. Speaker:

I rise today with a heavy heart to honor the memory of a very special New Mexican, Esther Martinez.

Esther Martinez is renowned for her work as an educator, author and master storyteller. But it is her life story that is very unique.

Born in 1912, her Grandson Matthew notes that Esther typically introduced herself by saying she was born the same year New Mexico became a state and the Titanic sunk. As a young girl, she traveled by covered wagon with her grandparents from her home in the Ute Country of Colorado to what was then known as San Juan Pueblo, now Ohkay Owingeh.

After arriving at Ohkay Owingeh, Esther was sent to the Santa Fe Indian Boarding School, as a part of the federal government’s efforts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream society. There she was scolded and often punished for speaking Tewa, her native tongue. As a lonely young girl, Esther longed to hear the voices and stories of her grandparents.

Story telling in her native Tewa language would be Esther’s greatest legacy. She dedicated herself to maintaining and preserving the various forms of the Tewa language. Among her Pueblo people Esther or Aunt Esther, as many called her, is best known for her storytelling, but also recognized for her linguistic and educational contributions.

Esther taught Tewa at the San Juan Day School and for more than twenty years served as the school’s Director of Bilingual Education. She also published her stories and used them as learning tools in the classroom. As a master of the Tewa language, she compiled Tewa dictionaries in various dialects for the Northern New Mexico Pueblos and also translated the New Testament into Tewa.

Last Thursday, Esther was in Washington, DC where I had the privilege of helping present her with the nation’s highest honor for folk and traditional artists. At the age of 94, Esther was named a 2006 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. With members of her family in the audience, Esther rose to be honored and received a standing ovation for her life’s work preserving her native Tewa language and traditions.

Tragically, while making her way back home from the airport Saturday evening, Esther was killed in a traffic accident. Two of her daughters traveling with also her suffered injuries but survived the crash.

Our hearts weigh heavy with the news of Esther's tragic passing but her legacy will forever live in the contributions she made to our nation as an educator, linguist and master storyteller. Her greatest role, however, was as a mother of ten and grandmother who was loved by many. Our deepest sympathies are with them today.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Sandoval County Veterans Vietnam Memorial will be dedicated on November 11

On Veterans Day, November 11, at 1:00 p.m. the Sandoval County Veterans Vietnam Memorial committee plans a dedication ceremony for a new monument, a memorial wall, a wall of honor, on property provided by the Sandoval County commissioners. The ceremony will be held at the northeast corner of the Sandoval County Courthouse front lawn, on Camino del Pueblo, in Bernalillo.

This wall of honor has become Phase 1 of a project originated over a year ago by Larry Hurtado of Peña Blanca. Larry’s initial intention was to have a memorial built in honor of his dear friend Freddie Saiz, killed in action while serving in Vietnam. It has since grown into a much larger endeavor in which people from all walks of life have come together, paying tribute not only to those listed as MIA and KIA but to all the Vietnam veterans from Sandoval County who served our country from 1959 to 1975.

Additional phases honoring veterans from World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Desert Storm, and the present war in Iraq will follow and will most likely be constructed at the new Judicial Complex, located off Route 528 and Idalia. Your contributions of time, energy, effort, suggestions, and funds are deeply appreciated. Your support serves in the erection of historical and educational sites for present and future generations. These are places of healing for some and will honor all those who made and are making sacrifices for us. Concepts for the next phases have not been solidified at this time, and volunteers are needed for planning, designing, and other stages.

The First Community Bank in Bernalillo has set up an account for those wishing to donate monies to the Sandoval County Veterans Vietnam Memorial, the Phase I portion of the project. Personal checks, cashier’s checks, and money orders are accepted. If you wish to mail your tax-deductible contribution, send it to Sandoval County Veterans Vietnam Memorial, P.O. Box 151, Bernalillo, NM 87004. For further information, contact Larry Hurtado, at 465-0925.

LPA Hagan hike reveals history of ghost town

Summer rains blocked a planned hike and chuck wagon at the ghost town of Hagan, but it's back on schedule for October 28.

Join Las Placitas Association as they explore this old mining community on the Diamond Tail Ranch. Gather at the Park-and-Ride lot in Bernalillo at 10:00 a.m., then carpool to the site.

Sturdy vehicles are recommended, as is wearing hiking boots, bringing water—and bringing a snack if chuck-wagon chow isn't on your diet.

There is no cost to attend, but registration is encouraged to give LPA an idea of how many people may be coming. To RSVP, visit or call 867-6330 and leave a message.





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