As the eldest member on the Puyallup Tribal Council, Vice Chairman Larry LaPointe brings with him nearly a quarter-century of experience going back to when Chief Leschi Schools opened in 1996, a pivotal moment in Puyallup tribal history that happened within a couple years of Larry being sworn in for the first time. Ever since then Larry has been a visible and active Council member for all the years following, and today he is indeed a solid anchor for Council and the Puyallup membership at large.
“Today we’re honoring a good friend of mine, and a good friend of yours – Mr. Larry LaPointe, vice-chairman of the Puyallup Tribe,” Chairman Bill Sterud said at the opening of Larry’s honoring during the May elders luncheon. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Larry for almost 25 years on Council and he’s family forever. I want to thank you Larry for all you’ve done for us.”
With that, Larry stood and was wrapped in a Pendleton blanket and cedar hat expertly made by House of Respect Director Vernetta Miller.
“So this is where all the beautiful people hang out!” Larry said, as the crowd laughed over his characteristic sense of humor. “It’s been an honor to serve everyone in this room as a member of the Puyallup Tribal Council.”
During his honoring, Councilwoman Annette Bryan recalled how Larry made a difference practically from the day he was sworn in.
“I was in my 20s and really struggling to put a piece of property into trust,” she told the lunch crowd. “Larry was there. He listened to what I was saying and he made a phone call for me to help me start the BIA process. At this time, 25 years ago, we didn’t have all the capacity or departments that we have now. I’ll never forget the help that Councilman LaPointe gave to me when I was going through that.”
For Annette, Larry has been an invaluable mentor during these, her first years on Council. “The past two years I have been really coached and mentored by Larry in all the things we do as governing officials. Thank you, Larry – I love you.”
Councilman David Bean also spoke highly of Larry’s willingness to teach new Council members, as Larry does with a perspective that only an elder of his years and experience could do.
“As a younger Council member, he and Chairman Herman Dillon would show me the way back in D.C. and the importance of going back there to share our stories – that if we don’t go back there, someone is going to be speaking for us,” Councilman Bean said. “So I want to say thank you Larry for being that road warrior, for testifying before Congress and handing down the reins to teach a young Council member the ropes.”
Born on Dec. 6, 1948, Larry graduated from Lincoln High School in 1967 then joined the Marines. He spent 13 months in Vietnam, his job being that of a rifleman walking trails and going on patrols. Once out of the service, he had a very hard time adjusting to life back home and it took him 20 years to get back on his path. He quit drinking and went out for some serious job hunting, applying for an administrative manager position with the Tribe and winning that job – then getting fired three years later “for teaching new Council members what their job was,” as Larry explained it. “The Tribe was going to go under – we didn’t have any money back then. So I educated (Council) that they had $3.7 million at the bingo hall that they could use for any purposes. The controller managed to get a loan from Columbia Bank for $800,000.”
When a friend suggested that Larry run for Council, he was skeptical at first but put his name in the running anyway – and won. Why did he decide to take on this big responsibility? “For the stability of Tribal Council and tribal government and finding out answers to the memberships’ questions – making life better for tribal members,” he said.
Larry was with the love of his life, Betty Capoeman, for more than 40 years until she passed away on Aug. 16, 2016. They had no children between them, but Larry adopted Stacy LaPointe in 1980, and Larry said that she continues to be a blessing to him like no other.
Larry has spoken often of retiring from Tribal Council, but thanks to a tribal membership that loves him and lets him know about it, he has yet to make retirement final. And for tribal members like Larry’s uncle Jim Young, that’s great news.
“Larry has served so many years on Tribal Council and I am so proud of him and Chairman Bill Sterud,” Jim Young said. “These people have made this Tribe what it is. Larry is dedicated to what he does. When Tribal Council meets, afterward Larry goes back to his office – he’s there when you need him. He doesn’t work through social media. He meets with the people. He makes me proud.”