Professor, scholar, mentor and community leader Elizabeth (Betty) Parent has had a remarkable career of firsts: She was the first Native American to be on the editorial board of the Harvard Educational Review, the first Alaskan Native woman to earn a Ph.D., the first Alaskan Native woman to obtain tenure as a full professor, and the first professor in American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University.
On Oct. 15, UC Berkeley hosted a virtual talk and interview in honor of Parent’s legacy and enduring contributions to Native studies and student mentorship.
The talk, titled, “Native Women: The Invisible Indigenous Population,” was organized by Patrick Naranjo, Director of Berkeley’s American Indian Graduate Program, and former mentee of Parent, Lisa Pieraccini, Associate Adjunct Professor in the History of Art department at Berkeley, and co-hosted by Ataya Cesspooch, member of Berkeley’s American Indian Graduate Student Association, and Meredith Vasta, Collections Steward at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Meredith Vasta, Collections Steward at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, recounted her experience as a student of Parent’s: “Betty has three biological children, but she has hundreds of academic children,” shared Vasta. “Regardless of what you were studying — you didn’t have to be in American Indian Studies with her — she supported your knowledge in any field.”
During the hourlong discussion with Parent, hosts shared memories and posed questions about Parent’s life and academic journey to hear her thoughts and experiences with encountering and overcoming barriers faced by Native women in higher education. The talk also spotlights the tragic epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women.