Nelson Tsosie, a two-time Indian National Finals Rodeo bareback riding world champion, International Indian Finals Rodeo world champion, and a competitor on the reality television series Toughest Cowboy, died April 10, 2010 in Sanostee, N.M. He was 23.
Brenda Charley, Tsosie’s older sister, told the Navajo Times that her brother slipped or fell from a mesa, plummeting about 100 feet to his death.
The incident is still under investigation by the FBI. Phone calls to the FBI and Navajo Nation Police by the Times were not returned.
Charley said Tsosie went into Farmington, N.M., the morning of April 9 to run errands, but never returned home. He reportedly visited a friend in Sanostee on April 10.
“The family, we’re holding up,” Charley said. “My mom is taking it hard, and my dad … we’re all hurting, but we’re just trying not to show it. We just still can’t believe it. He was just so young, his birthday was coming up on Saturday, the 17th, he was going to be 24. He will be missed; we’ll always love him and we’ll always remember him.”
In 2005, at the age of 19, Tsosie won his first world title as the International Indian Finals Rodeo bareback riding champion. In 2007, he won the Toughest Cowboy title and also his first bareback riding championship at the Indian National Finals Rodeo.
A year later, he won the INFR title for the second year in a row.
Tsosie grew up in Burnham, N.M., attending Newcomb Middle School and Farmington High School, where he graduated in 2005. He competed in PRCA rodeos for one year as a permit holder in 2005.