Edward Claplanhoo got his first glimpse of the Washington State campus from the window of a train in 1940. “I looked up on the hill when we were going by the old power plant and I said to myself, when I get ready to go to college, that’s where I’m going to go.”
There was never a question that he would go to college. “I just made up my mind because my parents always said that you’ve got to think about going to college.”
After graduating from high school, the young Makah applied for and received a full-ride scholarship from the Washington State Department of Education. He enrolled at Washington State in the fall of 1947. He was drafted in his junior year and spent the next two years tationed at Amy posts in the United State, Greenland and France.” I gave the Army two years and two days of the best days of my life,” he said, “but as I grew older, I look back and think those were wonderful years. I got to go to see places I would have never seen.”
He has many fond memories of college.
“I enjoyed college because it gave me an opportunity to meet people from different countries,” he said. “I enjoyed meeting foreign students and talking with them. And that’s still true today.”
He graduated in 1956 with a B.S. in agriculture and a major in forestry. Before he picked up his diploma, he was interviewed and hired by the director of the Washington State Division of Forestry, becoming the first Native American on his staff.
Claplanhoo counts as his proudest achievements things he has been able to do for his people while serving as a councilman, vice chairman and chairman of tribal government. “We put in a plan and worked off that plan for 30 years,” he said. “Now we have almost 500 units of new housing in Neah Bay. We have a new community water system, community wide sewer system and a modern marina.”
Recently he has seen a dream come true.
Claplanhoo grew up on the site of an old Spanish fort, Fort Núñez Gaona. “When my dad passed away, my mother and I inherited this piece of property. Before she passed away, I said to her if you give me your share of the property, I will build a veteran’s memorial to honor all the people who left Neah Bay to go to all the wars. After I started that, I thought it would be nice to commemorate the Spanish fort.”
Spanish explorers started construction of Fort Núñez Gaona in Neah Bay in 1792. The settlement included dwellings, a place of worship, storehouses, a bakery and an infirmary. The settlement was abandoned in the fall and moved to Vancouver Island.
Claplanhoo approached Lt. Gov. Brad Owen for help in contacting Spanish officials. The net result of a collaborative effort involving the Spanish government, the state of Washington, the Makah Tribal Council, Neah Bay area veterans and residents of Neah Bay is the Fort Núñez Gaona Diah Veterans Park.
The completed structure, scheduled to open in 2008, will resemble a traditional Makah longhouse. The names of nearly 300 Neah Bay veterans who served from World War I on will be displayed on a granite wall next to the entrance. The flags of the United States, Spain, the state of Washington, the Makah Nation, and each branch of the U.S. military will be displayed on flagpoles behind the wall. A stake fence similar one used in the original fort will be erected west of the structure.
“My veteran’s park is my pride and joy,” Claplanhoo said. “When it is finished, I’m turning the property over to the tribe.”
Visit http://ltgov.wa.gov/PressCoverage/newsreleases/NunezGaona06042007.htm to learn more about the Fort Núñez Gaona – Diah Veterans Park.