HOLBROOK — The passing of long-time White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Ronnie Lupe was recognized with a long, moment of silence at the Navajo County Board of Supervisor’s meeting this week – and glowing tributes from two of the supervisors.

Board Chairwoman Dawnafe Whitesinger, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, said “I certainly know that the Tribe appreciates all of the condolences. Yesterday was a day of mourning.”

She said at the school she administers, students all stopped to hear recordings of traditional songs Chairman Lupe sang. “They played throughout our school. You could hear a pin drop. This speaks to the respect and reverence everyone has for him. He is a son of Cibecue,” she said. Cibecue is one of the most traditional communities on the reservation, with a long, proud history of resistance.

“We have a lot of pride. He served 36 years as the chairman, which is quite a feat. Very few across the nation can say that. If you had the opportunity to meet Chairman Lupe, his presence is quite overpowering sometimes. All he needed to do was one word and his presence as a leader is known,” she added.

She said Chairman Lupe made the tribe’s voice heard nationally. “The growth of the tribe is part of his legacy in being able to have some of those larger industries that have impacted us. I had the opportunity to serve as board chair for Sunrise Ski Resort, one of the largest employers on the Mountain. He was always so kind to me. He will be missed by many.”

Supervisor Jesse Thompson, said “Chairman Lupe was a very spiritual individual. That’s how he governed his tribal government. That’s how I knew him, every time I sat down with him, we would talk about certain things.”

Thompson recalled the trauma and fear that enveloped the whole region when the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire burned some 500,000 acres, nearly destroying Show Low. “The following year everybody — city, county, federal — we got together and everybody was saying, no ifs ands or buts about it, there’s going to be fires happening. How prepared are you?

“Ronnie Lupe came up there — I don't know if it was a coincidence — he said, ‘you know, you said there is no rain that’s going to be coming down. Don’t lose faith — its’ going to happen. And it happened that same afternoon. To me, that’s the kind of person he is. Coincidence? I only know he was a spiritual individual,” Thompson concluded.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

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