Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Modesta Charley



Honored May 1990

Modesta Charley

"These tewa dresses have a special traditional pattern using tiny tucks and traditional gussets under the arm, Modesta Charley showed us her handiwork.

"We usually use a regular white material, forty-five inches wide. You use the edge to make the pleats. Every year I would make one dress, and every year it would win a prize. Now they have a machine to make the gathers and the pleats."

Born the daughter of Santiago and Delorita Martinez at San Juan Pueblo in 1905, Modesta lived with her mother and sister, Raycita. "My father passed away. My mother made pottery for her living," said Modesta. "There was a Spanish lady who used to sew for us. We didn't have a sewing machine, so she made our clothes. My mother paid her with the pottery that she made."