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Irene Sparks Rowan is Tlingit from the village of Klukwan, Alaska. She was born in 1941, and grew up in Klukwan and the nearby community of Haines, Alaska. She earned a teaching degree at Minot State Teachers College in Minot, North Dakota and taught in Bethel, Alaska for three years. She went on to work for the Alaska Federation of Natives, run a public opinion firm in Anchorage, establish her own public affairs company, Kish Tu, Inc., with Susan Ruddy, and was president and then chairman of the board for Klukwan, Inc. village corporation. Irene was one of the few women involved in the land claims movement, and has been a pioneer in Alaska business and Native issues since the late 1960s. While living in Washington, D.C. she was heavily involved with the Alaskans on the Potomac group that assisted Alaska Natives in town to testify on land claims and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) legislation, and led a campaign to encourage Alaska Natives to enroll under ANCSA. She fought for the recognition of Klukwan, Inc. as an ANCSA village corporation and for their land selections. She was special assistant for Alaska programs to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., and served as staff to the Alaska Task Force during the implementation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). In recognition of the importance of ANCSA, Irene organized and led ANCSA@40 and ANCSA@50 statewide committees to promote these anniversaries. She has been a strong promoter of Native and Chilkat cultural traditions, taught at the University of Alaska Anchorage, founded the Southcentral Native Educators Association, was inducted in the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame in 2012, and serves on the board of the Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association (AMIPA).