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Carina Dominguez

Alan R. Parker died at 79 years old on Aug. 5 surrounded by prayers and the love of his family. He dedicated his life to advocating for tribal rights to self-governance and inherent sovereignty and contributed to the design and development of some of the most important laws affirming tribal sovereignty. But most importantly he was a loving husband and father.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Sharon Parker; his children Christina Parker and James Alan Parker; four grandchildren, Shahndiin Parker Roanhorse, Siale Edmo Parker, Imasees Alan “Little Bear” Parker, and Miyosiwin Elizabeth Parker; four sisters, one brother, and many beloved cousins and nieces and nephews.

Parker was born in 1942 on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation while his father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After his return, his father moved his family to the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana where Parker was enrolled as a citizen of the Chippewa Cree Tribal Nation.

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Parker was integral in several federal, state and international programs that have become the foundation for the development of tribal sovereignty. He has had a hand in creating the Indian Child Welfare Act, he worked with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the federal Indian gaming commission.

“He and I met before he went to Vietnam. We were on a blind date,” Sharon Parker said. “We loved being together. We just did simple things like go fishing. And we went to a local baseball game. I was in school, so I left to go back to school and he went on with his army training.”

Parker attended UCLA School of Law, where he received a Juris Doctor degree in 1972. Prior to attending Law School, he served as 1st Lt. in the Signal Corp in the US Army from 1965 to 1968. He was awarded a Bronze Star medal for Out-standing Leadership Service under combat conditions in Vietnam. Parker practiced law in Washington, D.C. for over 20 years.

Parker said Alan Parker applied to UCLA primarily because his folks were there through the relocation program. During the termination era, there were massive urban Indian relocation efforts. According to the National Archives, when BIA urban relocation efforts started nearly 8 percent of American Indians lived in cities. The 2000 Census noted that the population had risen to approximately 64 percent.

“He thought it would be neat to be in L.A. and be near his family for a while and we decided to get married before that,” Parker said. This was a big deal because she had one year left of undergraduate school and didn’t want to quit.

“I had struggled to go to school all that time and get through school and do all these things I wanted to do. But so we made a deal,” Sharon Parker said. They decided if she got into UCLA she would go, otherwise they’d start their marriage apart, with him in California and her in Ohio. “Fortunately UCLA accepted me. And I finished there while he was beginning law school there.”

She said he was a very attentive father. She recalled a time with their first child Christina. She was sleeping in a bassinet and was coughing in the middle of the night, although the baby was closest to Sharon, Alan had leapt up so quickly he was the first one to tend to her.

Sharon said when he finished law school he was itching to get to the east coast so he could work on Indigenous issues. “For 20 years we lived in DC and most Native people from the west were like, ‘How could you do that?’ We were immersed in it. We were very happy with where we lived,” Sharon said.

She said Alan worked on reports that helped stimulate the creation of the Senate committee of Indian Affairs. He served as Chief Counsel to the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs from 1977 to 1981, becoming the first Native American to ever do so. From 1982 to 1987 he was president of the American Indian National Bank, an enterprise he designed to support tribes across Indian Country. Later, he organized the first Native American “think tank,” the National Indian Policy Center at George Washington University.

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Their second child, their son James Parker, was born in Georgetown. Parker said his dad never pushed them into policy or advocacy, he just wanted everyone to find what made them happy.

“My fondest memories are not tied to his work,” James Parker said, adding although he did have “an expansive scope of work that he did.” He said for his father it was always about people and relationships – and relationships not just with the people but the land.

After that Parker served as Staff Director to the committee from 1987 to 1991, having been appointed by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in 1987. During his service with the Senate Committee, Parker was instrumental in securing passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the Tribal Self-governance Act, as well as numerous tribal land and water claims settlement acts.

Parker joined the Evergreen College faculty in 1997, where he organized the nation’s first graduate school program in Tribal Governance with his colleague Linda Moon Stumpff. This historic program is located within the Masters in Public Administration program with a curriculum based on the recommendations of Tribal Leaders in the Pacific Northwest.

He also was appointed by former Washington State Governor Gary Locke to the Washington State Gambling Commission where he was the first Native American attorney on the Commission.

Parker was co-chair of the committee on Indigenous nation relationships of the Nation Congress of American Indians and coordinated treaty negotiations to establish the United League of Indigenous Nations in 2007.

Before retirement, Alan co-wrote Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis with Evergreen professor Zoltan Grossman. Upon his retirement from Evergreen in 2014, Parker collaborated with faculty at the Maori Indigenous University, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi.

The University, or Wananga, is based in the city of Whakatane, New Zealand. Parker joined with Patricia Johnston to design and create a Doctoral Program focused upon the advancement of Indigenous Nations across the Western World. Ten of his students from Evergreen were among the first to enroll in this historic program in 2013, and the two of them have already earned their Ph.D.

Upon retirement from The Evergreen State College in 2014, Alan served as an adjunct faculty member at the Maori Indigenous University, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in New Zealand, focusing on the advancement of Indigenous Nations across the Western World.

Tribal students were encouraged to join the Maori University doctoral program to deepen and share research interests on integrating cultural revitalization with tribal governance and sustainability. Parker completed two books during that period: Pathways to Indigenous Nation Sovereignty in the 21 st Century and American Indian Identity: Citizenship, Membership and Blood with Jessie Young and Se-ah-dom Edmo.

“It's not just a job, they’re connected to something far more important,” Sharon Parker said about the Evergreen program. He had an impressive career but maintaining a connection to culture and his community was very important to him as well. Parker said he was a sun dancer and was guided by his medicine man into it. “Alan loved being with people, whether it was a powwow or a family get together, he participated as much as he could,” Parker said.

James Parker said he wants to strengthen his relationship with where his dad was from, the Rocky Boy tribal lands in Montana.

According to Alan’s wishes, his ashes will be taken to Rocky Boy for a private ceremony, and a public memorial is planned for later in the year. The family will release details when they’re available. Friends and relatives are invited to contribute to an online memorial board by sharing memories, photos, and videos that honor Alan.

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