Imogene Bowen, Upper Skagit elder, dies at 71

Imogene Bowen, an elder of the Upper Skagit Tribe of Washington who fought for voting rights, racial harmony and environmental justice, died from cancer on January 5. She was 71.

At the age of 10, Bowen was taken from her family and sent to boarding school. Later in life, she overcame poverty and alcoholism to help her tribe regain its land.

Bowen encouraged her son to attend college and she went as well. At age 43, she earned her paralegal degree. At age 52, she graduated from Western Washington University with honors.

Bowen served as chairwoman of the Skagit Country Democratic Party and was a prominent political activist in Washington. She shared a stage with Jesse Jackson and was greeted personally by President Bill Clinton.

"Imogene was one of a half-dozen people you had to talk to if you were a politician headed to Northwest Washington," former Gov. Mike Lowry, who spoke last week at her funeral service, told The Seattle Times.

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From poverty, alcoholism, a tribal leader blossomed (The Seattle Times 1/15)