Susie Rayos Marmon (Ga-wa goo maa).

Susie Rayos Marmon (Ga-wa goo maa)

Teacher, oral historian, storyteller.

Susie Rayos Marmon (Ga-wa goo maa).
Susie Rayos Marmon (Ga-wa goo maa) historic marker.

A lifelong educator, she helped preserve Indian history through her teaching, service on Laguna’s Land Claims Commission and the first New Mexico Commission on Indian Affairs, and contributions to the American Indian Oral History Collection. Her 110th birthday was celebrated nationally.

Susie Rayos Marmon was one of the first Pueblo Indians to receive a college education. As a trained teacher, she stressed the importance of education for Indian children and believed that multicultural experiences should be part of the classroom.

Marmon was born in Paguate, a village on the Laguna reservation. Although no records exist to pinpoint her exact date of birth, she adopted April 15, 1877, as her birthday because she heard stories that she had been born during lambing time and was about three-years-old when the railroad blazed through territorial New Mexico in 1880.

Marmon attended the Presbyterian Mission School—now Menaul High School in Albuquerque. While there, she was given the name Susie and learned to speak English. In the late 1800s, she was sent away to Carlisle Indian School, a boarding school founded in 1879 for Indian children in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At Carlisle, children were required to speak English and learn core American values in an effort to assimilate them into American society. Girls underwent schooling in domestic skills such as housekeeping and cooking, and boys in technical vocational skills. After receiving a diploma from Carlisle, Marmon graduated from Bloomsburg Normal School in Pennsylvania in 1906 and became a teacher.

She taught at Carlisle for a short time before eventually returning to New Mexico to teach at the government-operated Isleta Pueblo day school. In 1909, she married Walter K. Marmon. After taking a hiatus from teaching to raise their five children, she returned to the profession in Laguna. At one point, she taught grades one through eight in a one-room schoolhouse. Many Indian children sat in Marmon’s classroom, including many who went on to become community leaders, as well as her own children and other relatives.

After teaching for nearly fifty years, Marmon retired from teaching in her sixties. She remained active in her community and served on Laguna’s Land Claims Commission well into her seventies. During the 1960s, she served on the first New Mexico Commission on Indian Affairs. She also contributed to the American Indian Oral History Collection (1967–1972), a project designed to document the oral tradition and history of Native Americans. She detailed what life was like in Laguna and the surrounding area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as her own experiences at Carlisle Indian School. In 1971, the North American Indian Women’s Association honored Marmon as Outstanding Woman in the Field of Education.

Marmon attracted media attention in 1987 when she reached the remarkable age of 110. The All Indian Pueblo Council, the Laguna Tribal Council, and the state of New Mexico recognized this landmark occasion. New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers declared “Susie Rayos Marmon Day,” noting that she was a “rich source of Indian history and love.” Marmon passed away the following year. The Albuquerque Board of Education posthumously recognized the lifelong educator by naming a school on the city’s west side after her. Susie R. Marmon Elementary School, the first in the district named after a Native American, was dedicated on March 11, 1990. Her contributions to education and her ability to seamlessly bridge Pueblo and white cultures are still remembered.


Holmes, Sue Major. “Laguna Matriarch, 110, Has Her Day.” Albuquerque Journal, April 26, 1987, C5.

Armijo, Barbara. “School Celebrates Founder’s Day, Culture.” Albuquerque Journal, April 20, 2004.

Associated Press. “Pueblo Educator Dies 11 Days Short of 111th Birthday.” Albuquerque Journal, April 6, 1988, 3D.

Gabbett, Patricia. “Kids Make Selves at Home in City’s New School.” Albuquerque Journal, October 24, 1989, D1.

Hartranft, Michael. “School Embodies Teacher’s Legacy of Indian Education.” Albuquerque Journal, n.d.

Holmes, Sue Major. “Laguna Matriarch, 110, Has Her Day.” Albuquerque Journal, April 26, 1987, C5.

Logan, Paul. “Elderly Care Center: Laguna Rainbow Nursing Center.” Impact/Albuquerque Journal, May 11, 1982, p. 6.

Marmon Silko, Leslie. Storyteller. New York: Seaver Books, 1981.

Sando, Joe S. Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History. Santa Fe:Clear Light Publishers, 1998.


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