Remembering Laura Escalanti

Laura Escalanti, from the Pueblo of San Ildefonso and beloved community member, died at the age of 69 on November 21 of complications from COVID-19. Ms. Laura was a Spanish and Tewa teacher in the Pojoaque Valley School District, as well as member of the planning team for Tewa Women United’s A’Gin Project. She will be greatly missed.

“We lost a treasure. People like her are invaluable. It’s hard to find people with that kind of ambition, that kind of charisma and character that really gets through to our youth,” said Joe Talachy, governor of Pojoaque Pueblo.

Escalanti worked as a teacher with the Pojoaque Valley School District since 2000. Her own education began at St. Catherine Indian School. She then attended the College of Santa Fe, but left before she completed a degree in order to marry and move to the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Many years later she returned to Santa Fe and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in multilingual/multicultural education. Later she attended New Mexico State University where she earned a master’s in education administration.

Tewa Women United’s A’Gin team had a special relationship with Ms. Laura through the planning process to launch the A’Gin Healthy Sexuality and Body Sovereignty Project, and remembered her as always supportive of TWU’s work.

TWU Associate Director Nathana Bird recalled: “You always kept it real and showed us what A’Gin means. To be able to work with you was a blessing for sure. It’s people like you that supported our children to be proud of who they are and inspire them to be better every day.” Nathana offered this blessing: “I pray for the comfort of all the children and community members who struggle to make sense of it all. Journey well and continue to give us the strength, courage and wisdom.”

Celina Hokeah, Program Manager for the Women’s Leadership and Economic Freedom Program, remembers that Ms. Laura was “the first teacher that I worked with when I started at TWU. She was so fun to work with, always had everyone laughing, gave the best hugs. She supported the A’Gin Project in an immense way. This hit the community and my heart so hard. So many young people including myself lost a great Tewa mentor.”

Ms. Laura, center, surrounded by one of the A’Gin cohort groups
and the Pojoaque 6th grade Tewa Class