Tribute For Molly Neptune Parker, Basket Maker and Tribal Elder, Dies at 81

Molly’s first language was Passamaquoddy. She went to school on the reservation and was taught by nuns, as most in her generation were; following the culture-busting practices of the time, she was punished if she spoke her Native language. The nuns even changed her name from Molly to Jeannette Katherine when they created a birth certificate for her.

When she and her first husband, Moses Neptune, a basket maker who also worked as a truck and school-bus driver (they were members of a basket making co-op) had children, they raised them to speak English, hoping to protect them from the trauma they both had experienced, Elizabeth Neptune said.

Ms. Parker had six children of her own, adopted three and fostered many more. After Ms. Parker and Mr. Neptune divorced, she married Terrance C. Parker, a policeman. Both her first and second husbands died before her.

In addition to her daughter Elizabeth, Ms. Parker is survived by seven other children, Gordon Newell, Dolly Barnes, Tammy Neptune, Frances Neptune, Yolanda Neptune, Christopher Neptune and Christopher Moses Neptune Parker; a stepson, Ken Parker; two brothers, Stephen and Robert Newell; 28 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren. Her daughter Janet died in 2015.

As well as serving a term as Indian Township’s lieutenant governor, Ms. Parker, a fierce advocate for her people, was a council member when the Passamaquoddy won their land back from the federal government in 1980. In her 60s, she ran a restaurant, Molly’s Luncheonette, which served classic American diner food along with Passamaquoddy specialties like hulled corn soup, stewed muskrat and fry bread.

Ms. Parker went her own way in life — sometimes literally. She had a habit of driving the wrong way on one-way streets. “This one used to be two ways,” she would say breezily.

As befit her station as a tribal elder, she received a police escort to her funeral in Calais last month, at a church large enough to accommodate the coronavirus social-distancing restrictions. Ms. Parker would have been pleased, Elizabeth Neptune told the congregation, that traffic had to pull over to make way for her.

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