Ed Claplanhoo ’56 was chairman of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay when a winter storm in 1970 eroded the bank above the beach at Cape Alava on the Olympic Peninsula coast, revealing the village of Ozette. The village, ancestral home to many Makahs, had been buried in a mudslide in the 1700s.

Once he realized what the storm had exposed, Claplanhoo called Richard Daugherty, an archaeologist at WSU. Daugherty had been the freshman class advisor in the early 1950s, and Claplanhoo had been the class treasurer.

Ed Claplanhoo
Ed Claplanhoo (Photo Zach Mazur)

Claplanhoo and Daugherty worked closely together to explore and preserve what archaeological crews found in Ozette, with the resulting artifacts and interpretation presented in the Makah Cultural and Research Center.

Claplanhoo first enrolled at WSC in 1947 with a full-ride scholarship from the Washington State Department of Education. His studies were interrupted by military service, but he returned and graduated in 1956 with a degree in agriculture and forestry. He was the first Makah college graduate. Soon after graduation, he was hired by the Department of Natural Resources. He also began a long career of community involvement. This will be the first year since 1965 that Claplanhoo will not be the master of ceremonies for Makah Days, a community celebration held every August.

His civic engagement was wonderfully extensive and varied. One of his last contributions was the Fort Núñez Gaona-Diah Veterans Park, on the west side of Neah Bay. The park now occupies the site that once held a fort built and briefly occupied by the Spanish in 1792. Claplanhoo envisioned the park as a monument both to the fort and to tribal veterans. He worked with the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Spanish government to develop the idea, and he and his wife dedicated family land for the park.

His loyalty extended not only to veterans, his people, and his community, but also to WSU. A visitor to his house would have no doubt where he went to college. In a note, Thelma, his wife of 50 years who did not attend WSU, wrote that “living with Ed you had to be a Coug at heart.”

Claplanhoo died unexpectedly of a heart attack in March. His heart was operating at only partial capacity, says Thelma, but he simply couldn’t slow down. More than a thousand people crowded into the high school gym in Neah Bay for his funeral.

On the web

A memorial and a blessing (WSM, Fall 2008)

The Home of My Family: Ozette, the Makahs, and Doc Daugherty (WSM, Spring 2008)