Ohkay Owingeh Sister Artists

Ramoncita Sandoval and Geronima Montoya in 2009.

Geronima Montoya and Ramoncita Sandoval participated well into their nineties at Santa Fe’s annual Indian Market. The two sisters were born to Pablo and Crucita Cruz at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. Geronima’s name in Tewa was P’otsunu, or White Shell. Ramoncita’s name Poekwinsawin meant Terrace Lake. The sisters both received Lifetime Achievement awards from the Santa Fe Indian Market and Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Cultural. Geronima also received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Institution and became a Santa Fe Living Treasure in 2004.

Historic Pueblo

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo, is remembered for events during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Spanish explorer Gaspar de Castaño was the first European to make contact with the Pueblo in 1591 and the harbinger of change. Castaño erected a huge cross at the pueblo to mark the beginning of the evangelization of the Native People. When Juan de Oñate arrived in 1598 he christened the pueblo San Juan de los Cabelleros. It was also at San Juan Pueblo that the medicine man Po’pay began the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. All of the Spanish colonists were forced out of New Mexico for twelve years.

Art Became a Family Tradition

The recognition the sisters received is attributed to their mother. Her Tewa name was Kaa Tsá Wá, which means Green Leaf. In the 1930s her art was featured at a ceramics show in Chicago winning first place. They thank their father, who farmed the land, for the fresh vegetables and whole-wheat flour he harvested. Crucita washed the wheat before taking it to be ground at a mill in Alcalde, north of their Pueblo. Every morning she would boil milk and made tortillas for the family while the children helped husk the corn. The sisters attributed their long lives to their healthy diet as children. Geronima died in 2015 at the age of 99 and Ramoncita was 95 when she died in 2019.

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