WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and Vice President Richelle Montoya today offered their condolences to the family of Caleb Roanhorse who passed away Saturday after a long career serving the Navajo Nation. Mr. Roanhorse was 72.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we say farewell to another dedicated servant to the Navajo people,” President Nygren said. “The Roanhorse name has long been synonymous with public service, and Caleb was an exemplar of that.”
Mr. Roanhorse was from Navajo Station, Arizona. He was Tótsohnii (Big Water Clan) and born for Tsi’naajinii (Black Streaked Wood Clan). His maternal grandfather was Áshįįhí (Salt Clan), and his paternal grandfather was Táchii’nii (Red Running Into the-Water Clan).
Known to family and friends as “CR,” Mr. Roanhorse graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in education. He obtained his Master of Education from Northern Arizona University and completed a post-graduate certificate in Education Administration from Western New Mexico University.
In his lifetime, Mr. Roanhorse held key roles in Navajo Nation education and government through numerous chairmen and presidential administrations.
He served in leadership roles for former Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald and the Navajo Tribal Council. He was an executive staff assistant to Chairman MacDonald.
“Caleb was a caring and loving person,” MacDonald said. “Caleb was raised in a traditional way … a rancher, a farmer, respecting our culture and tradition. As a leader of his chapter community, he made sure that his community exercised good government and that they be respectful of all visitors.”
Mr. Roanhorse was executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, Division of Education, Navajo Government Development Office, and was a legislative advisor to the Navajo Nation Council.
He helped establish the Nation’s first Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Additionally, Mr. Roanhorse held a seat on the National Indian Education Association Executive Board.
He served as Ganado Unified School District Board president, Cornfields Chapter president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer.
On behalf of the Ganado community, he worked with school leadership to secure funding from the State of Arizona and the Navajo Nation to build and construct the Ganado Hornet Pavilion.
Mr. Roanhorse believed in carrying forward Navajo traditions and Dine Bizaad (Navajo language). He was the eldest of 12 children and grew up on the Roanhorse family ranch where he learned how to care for and manage livestock.
Mr. Roanhorse loved riding horses, calf roping, and traveling. He loved being a cowboy and eventually served as President of the Dineland Senior Rodeo Association.
He is remembered as being caring, charming and charismatic. He enjoyed visiting with friends and family and loved to joke.
Mr. Roanhorse was preceded in death by his parents, Mary Helen Roanhorse and Anselm Roanhorse, Sr. and his brothers, Clarence Roanhorse, Merle Roanhorse and Robert Roanhorse. He is survived by his wife, Bertha Aguirre and children, Sharilyn Roanhorse-Aguilar and son-in-law Terry Aguilar, Shane Roanhorse, Sherrick Roanhorse and Kylie Roanhorse and granddaughters Taelor Aguilar and Taryn Aguilar.
A graveside service was held today at Sunset Memorial in Gallup, New Mexico.