Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Pablita Velarde

Pablita Velarde


Honored February, 1988

Pablita Velarde

The life of American's leading Indian woman artist is a story of determination and dedication winning out over daunting obstacles. You'd never guess it from her gentle paintings, full of charming narrative detail.

Born at Santa Clara Pueblo in 1918, Pablita was given the Tewa name Tse Tan, Golden Dawn. When she was five her mother died, and she herself suffered a brief bout of blindness. She was sent to St Catherine's Indian School in Santa Fe, and there given the name Pablita Velarde.

Continuing her studies at the Santa Fe Indian School, she was the only girl in the painting class. "The boys were mean, she recalls. "They poked fun at me. Because I wanted to be an artist. You'd do better washing dishes or washing clothes or scrubbing floors, they said." And her father, Herman Velarde, "didn't believe in a woman painting pictures and not doing a woman's work or learning to make a living," so he sent her to Espa–ola to study bookkeeping and typing.