New Mexico native and renowned sculptor Pablita Ta-Nez-Bah Abeyta died on January 31, 2017, at her home in Washington, D.C. She was 63 years old. Pablita was born in Gallup, NM, on July 20, 1953, to Narciso Ha-So-De Abeyta, and Sylvia Ann (Shipley) Abeyta. Ms. Abeyta earned her Master of Public Affairs from the University of New Mexico in 1983. Moving to D.C. to work as a lobbyist for the Navajo Nation's Washington office, she was a leader in efforts to enact tribal amendments to federal environmental statutes such as the Clean Water Act. From 1986-91, Pablita worked in the U.S. Congress for Colorado Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, then the Office of Indian Affairs under U.S. Rep. Mo Udall of Arizona. She played a key role in legislation to establish the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) within the Smithsonian Institution. She transitioned to the Smithsonian's Government Affairs Office in 1991. As the Museum was being planned and built, Ms. Abeyta's work was instrumental in crucial legislation and fundraising, and she was special assistant to the Musuem's directors until retiring in 2011. She received numerous awards at NMAI, including Employee of the Year, an award since renamed in her honor. Named for her grandmother, Pablita's Navajo name Ta-Nez-Bah translates as "One Who Completes a Circle." Her name and native heritage are reflected in her prize-winning sculptures, many of which were smooth, round and sensuous. Often her sculptures depicted women from her culture, reflecting the strength, beauty, and serenity of native women, who in life were her mentors and inspiration. Pablita's art was included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and her sculptures are held in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the American Indian. Pablita is survived by her partner Shaun Conway, formerly of Mancos; brothers Tony Abeyta, and Tom Warder (Judy); sisters, Benita Cooper, Alice Seely (David); and four nephews and seven nieces. She is preceded in death by her parents; her beloved sisters Elizabeth and Rosemary Abeyta; and brother-in-law Robert Cooper and two nephews. Donations can be made to the National Museum of the American Indian. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 25 at 6 pm at the NMAI in Washington, D.C. Plans are underway for a Celebration of Life in Santa Fe this summer.
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