Molly Neptune Parker, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who garnered national attention for her expertise in traditional basket making, died Friday after a brief stay at Calais Regional Hospital.
Parker, who lived in Princeton and also went by the first name of Jeanette, was 81, according to her obituary.
In 2012, Parker was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts for her expertise and skill in crafting traditional Passamaquoddy woven baskets. She was a founding member of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, which she served as president, and was honored by the First Peoples Fund, Bowdoin College, the University of Maine at Machias, the Maine Arts Commission and the New England Foundation for the Arts for her work.
Parker also held a number of positions in the Passamaquoddy tribal government, including as the first Passamaquoddy woman to serve as lieutenant governor at Indian Township, according to her obituary.
“Basketmaking is an art that I believe I was born to do, much as my ancestors have done for thousands of years,” Parker said in 2012, after being awarded the NEA fellowship. “Basketmaking is for me about innovation and creativity within the context of a traditional art form. The functionality, the materials and the shapes have been a legacy for each generation.”
The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance posted a statement on its Facebook page in honor of Parker, noting that she was the group’s longest-serving president.
“She was a fluent speaker of Passamaquoddy, an amazing cook, and all around incredible person,” the group wrote. “Kind, funny, generous she was a role model to myself and many others who were lucky enough to know her. We will miss her so much. Our love and condolences to her family and her tribe.”
She began creating baskets as a child, using scraps left from her mother’s basketmaking, according to a 2012 Bangor Daily News story about Parker.
“Traditionally, Passamaquoddy families would create signature designs that were handed down to the next generation,” the story said. “Parker makes baskets embellished with ash flowers as her mother and grandmother did before her. Her aunts also made baskets, and the men of her family harvested and pounded the ash to prepare it for basketmaking.”
Parker’s knowledge and skill in traditional basket-making has carried on in her family with Geo Soctomah Neptune, her grandchild, whose skill in the art also has received national recognition.
Geo Neptune declined to comment Sunday when contacted about Parker’s death.
Parker conducted many demonstrations of the art at festivals, schools and the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.