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Julia Parker Basket Collection Donated By Bay Area Philanthropist

YOSEMITE — Yosemite National Park, through Yosemite Conservancy, recently received a donation of 26 examples of Julia Parker’s basketry.

These pieces were collected through the years by Elvira “Ellie” Nishkian, from San Francisco, who was active in many charitable causes and was instrumental in the formation of the Yosemite Fund, which is now known as Yosemite Conservancy. Nishkian’s family felt that this wonderful collection of baskets belonged in the Yosemite Museum.

This donated collection includes both coiled and twined baskets, some decorated with tiny seed beads, shell beads and feathers, soaproot brushes, and other items. Many of these pieces are illustrated in the recent publication on Julia Parker authored by Deborah Valoma, Scrape the Willow until it Sings, published by Heyday Books with support from Yosemite Conservancy.

The Yosemite Museum houses one of the largest and most diverse collections of artifacts in the National Park system and cares for a large collection of American Indian material. The museum opened in 1926 and celebrates its 90th Anniversary this year. Some of the donated collection will be displayed during the “Why Yosemite Collects” exhibit at the Yosemite Museum from May 31 to Nov. 1.

Nishkian collection Parker baskets - photo courtesy Yosemite Conservancy“Julia has dedicated her life to not only making beautiful works of art, but also to ensuring the important knowledge and skills passed down from her elders continue to flourish,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean. “The Nishkian’s generous contribution ensures that these important pieces of Yosemite’s history can be enjoyed forever by visitors from around the world.”

Julia Parker, a Kashia Pomo/Coast Miwok followed her future husband, Ralph Parker, to Yosemite where they were married in 1948. In 1960, she began work as a demonstrator after Park Naturalist Doug Hubbard approached her about demonstrating weaving. Her career with the National Park Service spanned over half a century until she retired as a Master Interpreter and Indian Cultural Demonstrator in July of 2015.

Julia Parker is a world renowned basket maker and during her time at Yosemite she shared the unique story of the Miwok people to countless visitors. Her work can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., Queen’s Museum at Windsor Castle, U.K., and at the Yosemite Museum. She is also a National Endowment of the Arts Fellow and has received an honorary doctorate from the California College of the Arts.

Yosemite National Park celebrated its 125th Anniversary last year and is currently celebrating its Centennial Anniversary with the National Park Service. The park welcomes over four million visitors from all over the world each year and serves as a strong economic engine for the region and local communities. Yosemite National Park generates $535 million in economic benefit to the local region and directly supports 6,261 jobs. The park is home to Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, and iconic rock formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan. The park also features approximately 90 different species of mammals and over 1500 species of plants.

Through the support of donors, Yosemite Conservancy provides grants and support to Yosemite National Park to help preserve and protect Yosemite today and for future generations. Work funded by the Conservancy is visible throughout the park, in trail rehabilitation, wildlife protection and habitat restoration. The Conservancy is also dedicated to enhancing the visitor experience and providing a deeper connection to the park through outdoor programs, volunteering, wilderness services and its bookstores. Thanks to dedicated supporters, the Conservancy has provided more than $100 million in grants to Yosemite National Park. Learn more at yosemiteconservancy.org or call 1(415) 434-1782.

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