The White Mountain Apache Tribe lost one of its most influential leaders on Monday, officials said.
Former longtime chairman Ronnie Lupe died on Monday at the age of 89.
“The White Mountain Apache Tribe has lost one of its greatest leaders this morning. Former Chairman Ronnie Lupe had an illustrious career in the development of the Tribe and Indian Country,” Chairwoman Gwenda Lee Gatewood said, in a statement released by the tribe.
“Today he’s gone home and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth,” Gatewood said.
On Jan. 1, 1930 Ronald “Ronnie” Lupe was born in a traditional Apache shelter known as “Wickiup” in Cibecue, Arizona amid celebratory gunfire, Jerry Gloshay, Gatewood’s chief of staff said.
Lupe was fluent in the ancient ways of Apache songs and prayers, Gloshay said.
Lupe as a Korean War veteran. He served in the United States Marine Corps in 1951 and was a member of the 1st Marine Division; Item Company; 3rd Battalion; and 1st Marine Regiment.
In 1964, Lupe was first elected as the District III Tribal Council representative and served with his father, Nelson Lupe, on the Council, the release said.
In 1966, he was elected as the youngest chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe at the age of 36. He served for nine terms.
In 1968, Lupe was chosen by Arizona Gov. Jack Williams to serve as a member of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs.
In 1969 and 1970 he was elected as the first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. Other leadership positions included President of the Apache Alliance, and a member of the President’s Advisory Board of Northern Arizona University, the release said.
Overall, he served the White Mountain Apache Tribe for 54 years, officials said.
“I remain forever grateful for his teachings, vision and philosophy,” Gatewood said.
Former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah said in a statement, “Chairman Lupe was a great leader of White Mountain Apache Tribe, especially in legal cases brought before the judiciary. He won major cases and established precedent for Indian Country.”
The press release cited several of Lupe’s successful projects: Sunrise Ski Park, The Hon-dah Casino and Resort and Miner Flatt, a planned reservoir where clean drinking water will be stored.
The funeral service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m., at the Chief Alchesay Activity Center in Whiteriver, Arizona.
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