Published on September 22, 2013 by Amy
Julia Florence Parker (born 1928) is a Coast Miwok-Kashaya Pomo basket weaver, who studied with some of the leading 20th century indigenous Californian basketweavers: Lucy Telles (Yosemite Miwok-Mono Lake Paiute); Mabel McKay, (Cache Creek Pomo-Patwin) and Elsie Allen (Cloverdale Pomo). Over the last 40 years, Parker has become one of the pre-eminent Native American basket makers in California. A respected elder of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and long-time resident of Yosemite Valley, Parker is prolific artist, teacher, and storyteller.
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Julia Parker was born in February 1928 in Marin County, California. Her father was Coast Miwok, and her mother was Kashaya Pomo. They both died when Parker was still young, so she and her siblings were sent to a Native American boarding school. In 1945, when Parker was 17 years old, she married Ralph Parker. Ralph is the grandson of Lucy Telles, he is thought to be the last fullblood Mono Lake Paiute. The couple moved to Yosemite, where Parker began her studies of basketry with Telles.
Since 1960 Parker has worked as Cultural Specialist at the Yosemite Museum, where she interprets the traditional ways of the Native peoples who populated the Yosemite Valley for generations to park visitors. She demonstrates basket weaving and acorn processing. She has taught and lectured across the United States at universities, cultural centers, and schools. She has traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia to meet with indigenous artists and has been invited by numerous museums, including the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, to consult with specialists about collections stored in their facilities.
In 2004, Parker’s work was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, The Past in Present Tense: Four Decades of Julia Parker Baskets, installed at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek. In the same year she was featured in a segment of KQED’s program Spark.
In 2006, California College of the Arts conferred an honorary doctorate to Parker, and in 2007 she was the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.
Parker’s work is in permanent collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the Yosemite Museum, Yosemite National Park; the Norwegian Ski Association headquarters, Oslo, Norway; the private collection of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom; and numerous other private collections.