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Yosemite basket maker a living legend

Discussion about Yosemite National Park history, including Native Americans, Euro-American pioneers and settlement, and establishment as a national park.

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Yosemite basket maker a living legend

Postby Yosemite_Indian » Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:00 pm

Yosemite basket maker a living legend

By John Torigoe

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California (CNN) -- Her hands are like the grand and timeless Yosemite Valley where she has lived the better part of 60 years. They are strong and steady, with the feel of permanence like the smooth granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome.
Yosemite ranger Julia Parker is a basket weaver and cultural demonstrator.

Her agile fingers still weave willow branches into masterful baskets. They are traditional baskets that are displayed around the world and have garnered her attention from adoring fans.

She considers the Earth her lifeblood. She is a living metaphor for a hard-earned life spent caring for the land.

Julia Parker, 80, is Native American. Born in Northern California, she is a mix of Coastal Miwok and Kashia Pomo tribes. "I do have an Indian name that was given to me. I'm called Hoo Wee Na, that means 'person of peace.'"

She is a park ranger with Yosemite National Park. She works as Native American cultural demonstrator at the Yosemite Museum. There are many 20-and 30-year employees at Yosemite, but Julia is the oldest and longest-tenured park employee with over 40 years.

"Julia interprets Native American culture to our visitors,"Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman says. "She shows visitors how baskets were woven, toys or brushes were made and acorns collected from native black oak trees, ground up using a metate and made into mush."

"Julia is truly a national treasure," he adds. "She's been honored by universities, she has baskets all over the country, she's consulted with museums." Video Watch Parker at work »
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In 1983, Parker presented Queen Elizabeth II a basket she'd worked on for a year. Her work is displayed in museums like the Smithsonian.

Her parents died when she was 12, leaving five children orphans. Since she was the oldest, Parker tried to keep all of the kids together. They went to an Indian boarding school in Carson City, Nevada.

When she turned 17, Parker took a job laundering clothes for the Yosemite Park and Curry Company. She lived in the Indian Village and married Ralph Parker, a Mono Lake Piute. His tribe's Yosemite roots date back nine generations. His mother, Lucy Telles, was a renowned basket maker and, along with the other Yosemite women, passed down their basketry skills to Parker.

Parker's daughter Lucy is learning basketry from her mother.

"She's a living legend," Lucy Parker says. "She's known throughout the world. People will come to Yosemite to visit her here."

Lucy Parker is accomplished in her own basketry and is determined to keep the Yosemite traditions alive.

"My mom Julia has guided me through the heart of basket making. She's taught me to give thanks, give blessings."

Now four generations of Parker women are making baskets. There's Lucy's daughter, Ursula, and Ursula's daughter, Naomi. Its legacy and artistry seem secure.

Julia Parker is sitting in the shade of the willows. She has stripped the stalks of their small leaves and begins fastening a base to a quick basket. Her seasoned hands and sharp eyes thread willow stalks as another basket takes form. She hums a tribal song. Its words are sacred and not for outsiders' ears. The sheer walls of Yosemite Valley frame a living legend.

"I learned from my elders. They told me, 'Julia, you take from the Earth with a please and give back with a thank you."

Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute Colony of Ahwahnee
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Postby marryjohnson » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:11 am

I have never heard this before in my whole life.
I think I have to meet them. I really love to see them and their tradition.
I also want to learn how to make baskets if she trains me.
On this Christmas we had planned to go out some where and now I made my mind to visit to Yosemite.
Thanks for providing such a wonderful information about Yosemite.

Julia Parker

Postby onlyangie » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:59 pm

:) I have been fascinated with this story for years and finally I have found a little history on it. I, along with my brother are learning more about our heritage and want to start a family tree. Julia Parker is a distant relative of ours, although I have never met her my father and grandmother have always spoke of her! My grandmother is Irene Rose Jones, the daughter of the late Jim and Rose Jones of Mariposa. My grandma was born and raised on a Indian reservation on Stumpfield Road. I believe my great grandfathers property was were Chukchansi casino is now built. Lot of interesting history to be discovered and if anyone may have something to share it would be appreciated!!!

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Postby calieigh » Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:31 pm

I got surprised when I read the post of Yosemite_Indian.
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The Jones.

Postby Yosemite_Indian » Sun Apr 25, 2010 3:10 am

I know of the Jones in the area. Yes, they are Yokuts.
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