Tewa language

Not to be confused with Tewa language (Papuan) or Tiwa language.
Native to United States
Region New Mexico
Ethnicity Tewa people
Native speakers
1,500 (2007)[1]
  • Tiwa–Tewa?

    • Tewa
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tew
Glottolog tewa1261[2]

Tewa is a Tanoan language spoken by Pueblo people, mostly in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico north of Santa Fe, and in Arizona. It is also known as Tano,[3] or (archaic) Tée-wah.

Dialects and usage

The 1980 census counted 1,298 speakers, almost all of whom are bilingual in English. Each pueblo or reservation where it is spoken has a dialect:

Tewa is also spoken by the Arizona Tewa (Hopi-Tewa, Tano) who live at Hano on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona.

As of 2012, Tewa is defined as "definitely endangered" in Arizona and "severely endangered" in New Mexico by UNESCO.[5]

In the names "Pojoaque" and "Tesuque", the element spelled "que" (pronounced something like [ɡe] in Tewa, or /ki/ in English) is Tewa for "place".

Tewa can be written with the Latin script; this is occasionally used for such purposes as signs (Be-pu-wa-ve, "Welcome", or sen-ge-de-ho,"Bye"). Because alphabet systems have been developed in the different pueblos, Tewa has a variety of orthographies rather than a single standardized alphabet.[6] The written form of the language is not as ubiquitous as in languages such as Cherokee or Navajo, because some Tewa speakers feel that the language should be passed on through the oral tradition.[3] The Tewa language was a spoken language through the 1960s; digital language documentation efforts were underway as of 1995.[7]

Language revitalization

Esther Martinez, who lived to be 94 years old, was nationally known for her commitment to preserving the Tewa language.[8] Her San Juan Pueblo Tewa Dictionary was published in 1982. The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act is named for her, and as of Sept. 15, 2012, members of the New Mexico congressional delegation have introduced legislation to extend the program for another five years.[9]

Tewa language programs are available for children in most of the Tewa-speaking pueblos.[3][10] The Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa Language Revitalization Program also sponsors cultural activities, such as visiting Crow Canyon.[11]

Children's stories in Tewa have been digitized by the University of New Mexico, and are available online.[12]

A 2012 documentary film, "The Young Ancestors", follows a group of teenagers from Santa Fe Preparatory School as they learn the Tewa language in a self-study program with the help of a mentor, seventh grade literature teacher Laura Kaye Eagles.


  1. Tewa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Tewa". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 "Tewa (Tano) Language and the Tewa Indian Tribes (Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara, and Tesuque Pueblos)". Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  4. "University of New Mexico Rewards Red Lodge Graduate". 2004-06-21. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  5. "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  6. Evan Ashworth. "On Nanbé Tewa Language Ideologies" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  7. "Saving the Tewa Stories: A Model for Preserving Native Languages". Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  8. Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb (2006-09-19). "Esther Martinez, 94; Preserved Language". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  9. "Local news in brief". The Santa Fe New Mexican. 2012-09-15. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  10. "Poeh Center". Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  11. "American Indian Student Education Project : Language preservation educators, students, and staff visit Crow Canyon". Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. 4 (9). 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  12. "American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL): Pueblo Stories--in Tewa--Digitized at the University of New Mexico". Retrieved 2012-09-27.

Further reading

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