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Rowena Jackson

A member of the Klamath Tribes, Rowena Jackson spent her early childhood in Klamath Falls and Chiloquin. "My dad passed away when I was nine," she says. "He died of alcohol poisoning when he was 25. Then we moved to Portland." Feeling that she didn't fit in at school, Jackson dropped out at age 15, took GED classes at Portland's Urban Indian Center and passed her exam at 16. "After that, I played," says Jackson, who had $15K in an account derived from termination of her tribe's treaty rights in 1954. "I got into drugs and alcohol." When the money ran out two years later, she worked three seasons at the Lava Beds National Monument, joined the Job Corps in Astoria, then worked her way up to supervisor for a heart-monitor manufacturer in Portland. When the company moved to Chicago in 2000, she came to Eugene instead. She enrolled at LCC and eventually earned a degree in human services in 2011. "What helped me was getting clean and sober," she says, "and learning to reach out for help." She also learned Photoshop and started designing and printing t-shirts. Since 2003, she has been selling them at pow-wows. Subject matter ranges from the humorous "Native Duck" football player to the serious "Honor Our Treaty" design that admonishes the Klamath Tribal Council for its secretly-negotiated cave-in on water rights. See more at turtleislandtshirts.com.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 15 May 2014

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