Lena Boone Zuni Fetish Carver
It is in her blood. Zuni artist Lena Boone carves fetishes, and so does her sister Dinah. The craft was passed down from her grandfather, Teddie Weahkee. He is one of Zuni’s most famous artists. So it only makes sense that the girl who left for Cleveland, Ohio would come back to the Pueblo and make fetishes for the next 46 years.
Perry Null Trading Your sister is Dinah Gasper?
Lena Boone Yes, Dinah is my younger sister and along with her late husband Pete they made table fetishes and fetish necklaces.
Perry Null Trading Did you learn how to carve fetishes from your parents?
Lena Boone My grandfather was Teddie Weahkee and I remember seeing him working on fetishes when I was young.
Perry Null Trading Is that who taught you?
Lena Boone No, he started to get sick and my mom helped him make his fetishes and necklaces. He passed in 1965 and that is when I began helping my mom. She would have me sand and polish the fetishes.
Perry Null Trading Your grandfather was very famous and you find several pieces of his work in the C.G. Wallace auction catalog. What do you remember about him?
Lena Boone I remember seeing him working in the back of the house. He would to take large buckskins and paint them. One time I remember he painted a large Knifewing on the buckskin. He would sign and usually date them.
Perry Null Trading So he did more than fetish carvings?
Lena Boone Yes. He had a very interesting life. He was sent off to school in Phoenix when he was young. That was in the early 1900s. When World War I broke out he enlisted and served his Country. He was the only Zuni World War I veteran. After the war he returned to Phoenix and married his girlfriend. She was from Oklahoma and an Arapaho Indian. Her maiden name was Anna Lefthand. He brought her back to Zuni and she made the Pueblo her home. When he came back to Zuni he helped government anthropologist excavate an abandon village near Ojo Caliente. He and Leekya Deyuse were helping on the dig and they uncovered these ancient Zuni designs. That is what my grandfather would use in his designs. He was the first person to do inlay work in the village.
Perry Null Trading You talk about helping your mother. Did your father make fetishes?
Lena Boone My father didn’t make any jewelry or fetishes. My mother had learned from her father and before my grandfather became sick she did piece work for C.G. Wallace. We were back in Zuni because my father had passed. He served in World War II and after the war was over he worked at Ft. Wingate. We loss him when I was four years old.
Perry Null Trading What were your parents’ names?
Lena Boone Edna and Leland Leki. My maiden name was Leki, Lena Leki.
Perry Null Trading After your grandfather passed away did you start making fetishes fulltime?
Lena Boone I was a teenager and was ready to get out of Zuni. The government had a relocation program and had several different schools for Indian kids. I signed up and went to school in Cleveland, Ohio.
Perry Null Trading What was that like?
Lena Boone It was different, but good. I took business classes for a year and then worked for General Electric in a central office.
Perry Null Trading How long did you stay there?
Lena Boone For 2 1/2 years. My boyfriend Rignia Boone was in Oakland doing school. We had a plan to meet there so I came back to Zuni. He and his buddy enlisted for the Vietnam War so I never got to go to Oakland. Instead I started working at the Zuni COOP.
Perry Null Trading What was that like, being back in Zuni?
Lena Boone Good. The COOP was suppose to help young artist learn how to make jewelry, but had lots of problems and eventually became just a retail shop.
Perry Null Trading After Leland came back did things change?
Lena Boone I had my daughter and stopped working outside the house and began making fetishes fulltime. I have been making fetishes ever since and my daughter is 46 years old now.
Perry Null Trading Did your husband help.
Lena Boone No. I lost him in 1984. He had a hard time after coming back from Vietnam. He lost his buddy he enlisted with and always had a hard time that he returned and his buddy didn’t.
Perry Null Trading Is their a style of fetish that Lena Boone is known for?
Lena Boone A amber hummingbird on a necklace, and traditional six directional table fetishes..
Perry Null Trading Do you do any shows?Lena BooneI was the first Zuni fetish carver to show at the Santa Fe Indian Market and still do. I probably make around 300 pieces for the show.
Perry Null Trading Thank you.