Ed Claplanhoo dies at age 81; Makah elder's legacy includes deeds for tribe, veterans
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Ed Claplanhoo raises the flag in 2008 at the Fort Nunez Gaona-Diah Veterans Park, a monument to the military veterans of Neah Bay. -- Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News

By Paige Dickerson
Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY -- Tributes were pouring in Monday for Edward Eugene Claplanhoo, a Makah elder revered for efforts to preserve the tribe's culture and serve its military veterans who died Sunday of a heart attack.

He was 81.

Claplanhoo served three terms as the Makah tri-bal chairman in the 1970s when the Ozette archeological dig -- of an intact village buried in a mudslide in the 1700s -- was undertaken.

"He was there at a really crucial time and was very prominent within the tribe," said Ruth Kirk, who wrote a book about the dig and is married to Richard Dougherty, the Washington State University archaeologist who led the project that led to the Makah Cultural and Research Center at Neah Bay.

"Ed and Dick were really instrumental in getting the museum set up," Kirk said.

"Usually, back then, artifacts were taken back to the university, but here Dick always wanted them, and Ed worked with him because the Makah wanted them to stay in Neah Bay.

"Now it is common to do that, but back then it was a new idea."

Tribal Chairman Michael Lawrence said that Claplanhoo was a pivotal figure for the Makah.

"Ed was truly an elder statesman," he said. "He was an inspiration to so many Makahs.

"He functioned as a mentor to many of us who have been elected to the Makah Tribal Council.

"Ed was a council member and chairman for a number of years and he always represented the tribe with dignity and respect.".

Janine Bowechop, executive director of the Makah Cultural and Research Center, said in addition to his work for the excavation of Ozette, Claplanhoo also was instrumental in supporting the culture for all tribes.

"Ed also served as the chairman of the board for the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in Seattle, was an elder of the Neah Bay Assembly of God Church, and was a member of the Makah tribe's higher education committee," she said.

"He will be remembered for many of the boards and committees he served on and official positions he held, but I think a lot of us appreciate him, too, as a solid and steady community member.

"He went to every wedding and potlatch he was invited to, attended all of the Neah Bay High School football and basketball games, attended all the funerals of people he knew and he always had words of encouragement for young people.

He and his wife, Thelma, were such pillars of our community."

Makah Days emcee

Claplanhoo was also famous for his booming voice as the emcee of the annual Makah Days celebration, his wife said Monday.

"Sometimes you could hear his voice from the beach all the way up to the cemetery.

"He's been doing that since 1966 or so. I think in all that time he has maybe missed one."

Claplanhoo was a graduate of Washington State University -- and was named as an honored graduate.

"Only 1 percent of students get that honor," said Thelma Claplahnoo.

"He was pretty proud of that. He was a proud Cougar.

"Everything in our house is all about the Cougars."

Recognition of veterans

But he was also known for his efforts to recognize and help military veterans.

He served in the Army for several years after college and was stationed at Fort Worden in Port Townsend and Fort Lewis near Tacoma.

Thelma and Ed Claplanhoo donated land he inherited from his parents, Art and Ruth Claplanhoo, on which they built a monument to veterans and to the Spanish influence at Neah Bay.

The structure, which Bill Sperry of Forks helped build, was termed a monument instead of memorial because no Makah has died in battle.

"Ed dedicated his life to his family and the betterment of the Makah tribe," said Sperry.

"He had great passion for all tribal veterans and was very generous in donating time and land for the Fort Nunez Gaona-Diah Veterans Park.

"He was a very generous man with a big heart."

Survivors, services

In addition to his wife, Claplanhoo is survived by his, daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Jack Werkau of Lake Tapps; his son and daughter-in-law, Vern and Marla Tolliver of Neah Bay; five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his grandson, Ronnie Scroggins, and an infant child.

Viewing will be on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. at Harper-Ridgeview Funeral Chapel, 105 W. Fourth St., Port Angeles.

The funeral service will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Neah Bay High School gymnasium, with dinner following.

He will be buried at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent next week.

Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty said Claplanhoo's influence will be missed throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.

"Ed was one of those few gentle, dignified people," he said.

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Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 17. 2010 7:31PM
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