Missing Navajo war veteran dies after getting lost in snowstorm


Directions from a Medicine Man helped guide searchers.

WINDOW ROCK – Lee C. Bitsui, a decorated war veteran, who went missing late last week, was found dead last Monday.  Family of Bitsui and community members began searching for him on Saturday after he failed to show up at his brother’s house.


Bitsui’s children drove to his house Saturday to check up in him, which is located  about three miles south of the Steamboat Chapter House. They didn’t find him, and found his sheep scattered and wandering around.


Bitsui – a decorated war veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart – disappeared after driving in to the desert on his ATV. It’s believed he became lost during a snowstorm that hit the area while he was gone.


On Sunday a group of 17 volunteers and search-and-rescue teams, organized by the Ganado Fire Dept., began searching for Bisui in rugged, snow-covered terrain using drones, helicopters, and riders on ATVS and horses,  but failed to find him.


They continued their search on Sunday, this time getting help from six Navajo Nation Rangers who joined the search. Bitsui remained missing after Sunday’s search.


After the two failed searches the family consulted a Navajo medicine man who told them that their father “was trapped.”


During Monday’s search they did away with the drones and helicopters and followed the directions given them by the medicine man and later that day they found him.


Bisui’s brother, Howard Bitsui, told the Navajo Times, “[Lee] is well known throughout the reservation and is a loving grandfather to many.”


“Dad had 49 sheep, he loved his way of life,” said Bitsui’s son, Lene Wild-Indian.  “[He] loved herding his sheep. Loved helping the community. A hero in more ways than one. My tears flow, my heart aches.


“I'm so thankful for all of you who expressed your concerns for me and my family. We felt your prayers, needed them. It was our strength. Thank you. Dad is no longer missing.”


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