An expanded and corrected version of my recent Facebook posting. Thanks to Emogene Bevitt, Pat Tiller and Cherie Lizarraga for improvements and corrections.
Patricia Lee (“Pat”) Parker, Chief of the American Indian Liaison Office in the National Park Service, died on December 16, 2014 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. Dr. Parker was 71 years old.
Born Patricia Lee Sires in 1943, Pat lost her father, Lt. Howard E. Sires, in 1945 when he and his Navy Liberator bomber crew went missing in action over the South China Sea. Her mother, Billie Louise Schnebly, then married Navy Chief Petty Officer Griffith H. Parker, Jr., who gave his name to Patricia and her sister Charlotte.
Dr. Parker studied European and American History at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her bachelor’s degree and a California teaching credential. She was a popular high school teacher in Marin County, California for almost a decade before beginning graduate studies at San Francisco State University. Married at the time to attorney John Hickman, she received a Master’s Degree in anthropology and took part in archaeological and historical studies in various parts of California. Following a divorce, she undertook postgraduate studies in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Parker’s dissertation research investigated the effects of successive colonial legal systems on traditional land law in Chuuk, now part of the Federated States of Micronesia. She lived in Chuuk for two years, learned the Chuukese language, and became deeply involved with Micronesian peoples and cultures. She and Thomas F. King, who she married in 1977, helped mediate disputes between the U.S. government and Chuukese villagers over construction projects that threatened the villages’ natural and cultural environments. They also coordinated major ethnoarchaeological data recovery work done by the villages in advance of those projects that proceeded after agreements were reached.
Returning to the mainland, Parker received her PhD in 1983 from the University of Pennsylvania. She and King became the parents of their son Thomas Sires King, and Parker began work for the National Park Service’s Cultural Resource Management program. Initially hired to help set up the “Certified Local Government” program of financial aid to local historic preservation programs, Parker led a series of national meetings to define needs and directions, drafted program regulations and administrative procedures, and oversaw the program’s launch. She then turned to helping Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian groups participate more fully in the federal historic preservation program, again coordinating meetings throughout the country. These resulted in a report to Congress entitled Keepers of the Treasures, published in 1990. Congress responded in 1992 with amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act that expanded and clarified roles in the national historic preservation program for tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.
Perceiving the need for better relations between the National Park Service and American Indian Tribes, whose ancestral lands the Service in part controls, Parker proposed creation of a national American Indian Tribal Liaison Office. When the Office was created, she became its Chief, a position she held until her death.
Dr. Parker was a tireless champion for Native American cultural interests within the Park Service and beyond. She was instrumental in securing a homeland for the Timbisha Shoshone in Death Valley and in resolving many other long standing issues between American Indian tribes, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian organizations, and the National Park Service. Dr. Parker selected Charles Wilkinson of University of Colorado, Boulder, a national expert on Indian Law and Public Land Law, to be the primary instructor for a series of intensive 2-day workshops on the foundations of Indian law and policy. From 1997 to 2014, she and Wilkinson held some 30 workshops throughout the country, training close to 1,000 people. While Park Service managers and senior staff were the primary beneficiaries, tribal speakers were always featured; many tribal members and other Federal agency senior staff were also included. Participants gained, often for the first time, an understanding of the special legal, fiduciary, and historical relationships that exist between tribes and the U.S. government.
Parker led a cultural resources tribal working group within the Park Service to better coordinate and communicate the programs and resources available to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. This working group developed a website to share this information with tribes at www.nps.gov/tribes . The working group also authored a series of Quick Guides to share core information on key Park Service programs and the essential legal framework of the National Historic Preservation Program. The Quick Guides are posted on the tribal website.
Parker was also known for her co-authorship of National Register Bulletin 38, on how traditional cultural places can be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This bulletin clarified the fact that the Register’s criteria are inclusive enough to recognize places of traditional value to tribes and other communities. Eligibility for the Register requires Federal agencies to take such places into account in planning land use projects, and to consult about management alternatives with the communities that value them.
Parker maintained her concern with Micronesian affairs, helping the Freely Associated States of Micronesia establish and manage historic preservation programs with National Park Service assistance. This and her other work with indigenous groups led her to serve as an advisor to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), UNESCO, and the World Bank.
At her death, Parker was deeply involved in long term efforts to create a Lakota-administered Tribal National Park on the South Unit of Badlands National Park, and to finalize regulations establishing procedures for tribal access to traditional plant resources in National Park units to which they are historically linked. She was also working to improve U.S. government consultation practices with American Indian tribes, Alaska Native groups and Native Hawaiian organizations concerning Indian Sacred Site management and other matters.
Outside of work, Parker was a dedicated gardening enthusiast, with an elaborate garden at her home in Silver Spring, and was active in local horticultural organizations. Beds of bulb flowers whose import from Holland she organized still grace parks and other public spaces in Silver Spring and nearby Takoma Park. She was also talented at needlework; friends and family members will enjoy her sweaters, caps, socks, and artistic cross-stich for years to come. Late in life she became an enthusiastic watercolor artist. Early and late she traveled extensively both on her own and with family members and friends, visiting her ancestral landscapes in Sweden as well as China, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Australia, Fiji, Peru, the United Kingdom, Canada, the island states and territories of Micronesia, and every U.S. state. Her last trip, in 2013, was a crossing of the Atlantic aboard the tall ship Star Flyer from Spain to Barbados, observing a total solar eclipse in mid-ocean.
Dr. Parker is survived by her husband, Thomas F. King and her son Thomas Sires King, his wife Monica, and granddaughter Olivia I. King, as well as by siblings Charlotte A. Lizarraga, Griffith H. Parker III, and Stephen J. Parker and their families, stepchildren Rachel T. King, Joshua M. King, and Madera K. Clark, plus step-grandchildren Emma and Duncan King, Noah and Jacob Richards, and Kayla and Tanner Clark. She was predeceased by her younger sister, Juliet L. Somers, whose children, Peter Dale Somers and Juliet Somers-Barnes, survive her with their children.
Memorials are being planned and will be announced. In lieu of flowers or other tangible expressions of condolence, donations to the Native American Rights Fund (http://www.narf.org/) are welcome.