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.
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
Your sister is Dinah Gasper?
Yes, Dinah is my younger sister and along with her late husband Pete they made table fetishes and fetish necklaces.
Did you learn how to carve fetishes from your parents?
My grandfather was Teddie Weahkee and I remember seeing him working on fetishes when I was young.
Is that who taught you?
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.
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?
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.
So he did more than fetish carvings?
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.
You talk about helping your mother. Did your father make fetishes?
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.
What were your parents’ names?
Edna and Leland Leki. My maiden name was Leki, Lena Leki.
After your grandfather passed away did you start making fetishes fulltime?
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.
What was that like?
It was different, but good. I took business classes for a year and then worked for General Electric in a central office.
How long did you stay there?
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.
What was that like, being back in Zuni?
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.
After Leland came back did things change?
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.
Did your husband help.
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.
Is their a style of fetish that Leena Boone is known for?
A amber hummingbird on a necklace, and traditional six directional table fetishes..
Do you do any shows?
I 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.