Tonita Peña, whose Indian name was Quah Ah, was born in 1893 in the tiny New Mexico pueblo of San Ildefonso on the Rio Grande, just north of Santa Fe. At about the age of 12, her mother passed away and her father, unable to raise her and tend his fields and pueblo responsibilities, took her to live with her aunt and uncle at Cochiti Pueblo, where she spent the rest of her life.

Tonita Pena was the first Pueblo women to throw off the traditional restrictions that were usually inconvienenced upon women in Pueblo cultures. She was then able to paint whenever she wanted to. Tonita began painting at the age of ,21, and was selling and exhibiting her work throughout the southwest. Dr. Edgar lee hewett and Dr.Kenneth M Chapman both guided and recognized her talent. They noticed that she was the only female painter at that time.

Tonita taught at the Santa Fe Indian School and at Alburqurque Indian School. By the time Tonita was 25 years old, she was a successful easel artist, and her work was being shown in museum exhibitions and in commercial art galleries in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. She painted what she knew best - scenes of life at the pueblo - mostly ceremonial dances and everyday events. She is still considered one of the best female Indian artists of all time.

At the Introductory Exposition of American Indian Tribal Arts in 1931 her painting "Spring Dances was labeled " best in the show". She also did Mural paintings. She was also known as Quah AH, and The Grand Old Lady of Pueblo art.