All Zunis grow up surrounded by art, but Milford Nahohai has probably done better than most. His family tree looks like more like a Christmas display. Wherever the family name came from, as it is written today it is the Navajo word for rodeo [originally chicken pull] a rather exciting event.
Claudia Peina comes from an illustrious family; both jewelry and especially fetishes. The earlier generation concentrated mainly on stringing fetishes. Kempsy Kushana, George Haloo, and Miguel and Rami Haloo who carved standing bears. Early on she learned to carve frogs from her aunt Rosalia Quam.
Lewis (Mertz) Malie is a nephew of Maxx and Pernell Laate and as he grew up he watched them work, picking up techniques and inspiration. Though Lewis Malie grew up in a family of carvers, he has developed a work style different than any fetish maker I know of.
The earliest Zuni maker of jewelry who can be identified with certainty is Juan De Dios, who taught his nephew Dan Simplicio Sr. and several other Zunis. Juan remains mysterious but Lee Weebothe remembers him well and has told me some great stories. There are two Juan De Dioses in the 1885 census, both born in 1876. De Dios manages to avoid being listed in most of the later censuses.
We complain all the time about so many silversmiths deliberately not signing their work well up into the Fifties and how nice it would be if everyone had marked their pieces, but that is not always correct. The signature of two letters LL has two or three takers at any moment, though the two most prominent ones are both gone.
While snakes do not qualify as a popular Zuni design they are interesting for that reason—why were they not more desirable?
Playing the name game is often as simple as figuring out who a piece actually belongs to when it is marked by initials only. Except without a last name there isn’t much to work from. By now most people have learned that LL stands for Larry Laate, not Lavonne Lalio or Navajo Larry Livingston, Linette Laiwakete perhaps or any other fanciful attribution.
There are a handful of famous Zuni jewelers who either never existed or did not make the jewelry they are famous for. How could this happen, you ask? Traders are always under pressure to put names to jewelry they are trying to sell. This also includes point of sale. Collectors can be very insistent and a familiar name is soothing. Traders also had to put names on jewelry they entered in various competitions.
For two men who were not even remotely related these two talented silversmiths have been inextricably intertwined. Several bits in their biographies may have added to the confusion. Both Navajos were born on the same part of the Reservation not far north of Zuni. Exactly where they were from is unclear because censuses list the place the material was collected. They both appear in the Southern Navajo Agency censuses.
The bolo tie has nothing to do with the Argentine throwing weapon that consists of three round stones tied together with leather thongs. With that thing around your neck you were in trouble. It was also not invented by some fellow in Arizona with a good imagination in 1940 something. In fact, the bolo tie has been around in some form for many years
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