Robert and Bernice Leekya

robertleekyabisbee

Perry Null Trading:

Robert and Bernice Leekya, How long have you been married?

Robert

We married February 15, 1953. It was during a Night Dance we met (Zuni humor).

Perry Null Trading:

Who are your parents?

Robert

My father Robert was Leekya Deyuse. He was a fetish carver.

Bernice

My parents were Warren & Doris Ondelacy. I had one sister, Alice Quam, and two brothers, Andy & William.

Perry Null Trading:

What do you remember of your parents from when you were young?

Robert

I can remember my father wanting to teach me how to carve stones. He tried to teach me but I told him I didn’t want to get dust all over me .

Bernice

It was in the 1930s when I can remember putting turquoise on sticks for my parents. That was my first introduction to jewelry making.

Perrry Null Trading:

Do you make jewelry because of your parents?

Robert

They influenced us, we make it because of them. We do the work together, both of us will do silver and stone work. We began with cluster work and still do that on the side, but we found we liked to do big stone work better.

Bernice and Robert Leekya Dressed to the nines!
Perry Null Trading:

Who did you trade with when you first started making jewelry?

Robert

A trader by the name of John Kirk bought a lot of our pieces. He had a store on the North side of Gallup by the old Tobe Turpen Trading Post. He later moved to Albuquerque, but we still took him our work. He gave us a good price and was a real good person. He would give us Number Eight & Lone Mountain Turquoise to make cluster belts, we made hundreds of them.

Perry Null Trading:

Who else do you remember trading with?

Robert

We dealt with lots of traders, John Kennedy, Bill Burch, Tobe Turpen Sr. & Jr., Ernie Vanderwagen, and a few of the stores in the Zuni area.

Perry Null Trading:

Most of the Traders you mention are from Gallup. Why not more with Zuni dealers?

Robert

In the days when we first began Zuni did not get many tourists. After World War II it was very slow and did not pick up for a long time. Today the summers are busy in Zuni, but it is still better for us to sell in Gallup.

Perry Null Trading:

Both of your parents did lots of work for Zuni Trader C.G. Wallace. Do you have any of their work?

Robert

No, we do not have any of their work.

Perry Null Trading:

Zuni jewelry was first starting to be made in the Village around the 1900s, do you remember any training from when you were young?

Robert

Horace Iule use to teach silver making at the Day School. I can remember people using silver dollars and silver rollers to make their sheets.

Bernice

My mom learned from her neighbors. She first started making simple one row turquoise bracelets. Both of us learned from our parents.

Perry Null Trading:

Carving has been around much longer than silver work. Who did your father (Robert) learn from?

Robert

He taught himself. My father was the first in his family to carve. He taught Teddy Weahkee and Leo Pablano to carve. When I was young I remember going with my father to get stone close to Zuni for him to work on. Also, C.G. Wallace always had stone for him to work on.

Perry Null Trading:

Both of you are full time silversmiths. Do you see the tradition growing with the younger generations?

Robert

No, today they are not as interested. You have more kids leave to work off the Reservation now then you use to have. Also, in 1953 the first Zuni Firefighters traveled to fight fires, today many men wait for the siren to go and fight fires for their income. Other things too, materials cost more, more assistance from the government, and it is not taught in the schools.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you remember your favorite piece?

Robert

A buckle made for Tobe Turpen Sr., it was an inlay piece with Morenci.



Available art from: Leekya, Robert and Bernice