Special Education Teacher and Native American Politician Sharon Clahchischilliage

HCLAHMany talented educators distinguish themselves in the political arena. This is certainly true of Native American Sharon E. Clahchischilliage, a Navajo elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Sharon was born in Farmington, New Mexico, in 1949. She was raised in Gad’iiahi, just west of Shiprock, New Mexico. Her parents, Eleanor and Herbert Clah, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Shiprock Boarding School. She is the granddaughter of two former Navajo Nation Chairmen, Deshna Clahchischilliage (1928-1932) and Sam Ahkeah (1946-1954).

As a teenager, Sharon attended high school at Navajo Methodist Mission in Farmington, where she graduated in 1968. After her high school graduation, she enrolled at Bacone Junior College at Muskogee, Oklahoma, and then transferred to Eastern New Mexico University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1976. She earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. Since then, Sharon has acquired additional training in special education, guidance counseling, and administrative education from the University of New Mexico.

Sharon has extensive experience in the public schools. She worked for more than ten years as a special education teacher at Albuquerque Public Schools, Bernalillo Schools, the Farmington School District, and as a guidance counselor at the Southwestern Polytechnic Institute.

In addition to her career in education, Sharon has devoted many years to public service. She was a Lieutenant Commissioned Corps Officer for the US Public Health Service for the Points of Light program of President George H. W. Bush. She also worked for the Family Center Program located at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, a program that helped patients with substance abuse recovery. While there, Sharon also worked at the Strecker Substance Abuse Unit at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.

As a Native American, Sharon has devoted much of her energy to tribal issues. She has devoted her energy to the Indian Health Service, Albuquerque Service Unit, and has also worked as a liaison between the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and New Mexico tribes under former State Cabinet Secretary Heather Wilson during the administration of New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. In 1999, this dedicated teacher served as the Executive Director of the National Council on Urban Indian Health in Washington, DC. Additionally, she has nine years of experience as the Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office (NNWO). The NNWO serves as the official link between the Navajo Nation and the United States government. The organization monitors and analyzes congressional legislation, disseminates Congressional and federal agency information, and develops strategies and decisions concerning national policies and budgets that affect the Navajo Nation.

When Sharon won her seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives in November, 2012, she became the first Republican Navajo woman to be elected to the New Mexico State Legislature for District 4.

Sharon Clahchischilliage: a true chalkboard champion.