By Ernie Over
Last week down in Rawlins, doing what he was called to do, Eastern Shoshone Elder Willie LeClair, 86, passed away following a sweat lodge ceremony at the Wyoming State Penitentiary. LeClair performed the Sweat Lodge for Wyoming inmates for many years.
The former head of Fremont County’s Road and Bridge Department, LeClair was a ceremonial chief for the tribe at the Lander One Shot Antelope Hunt, a lecturer, storyteller, a northern traditional dancer and and educator on Native American culture. He hosted numerous sweat lodge ceremonies at his ranch outside Riverton and spoke often about bringing the Native and non-Native communities together. He was a popular rodeo announcer and was awarded “Announcer of the Year” in 2000. He would also team up with Lander’s Bill Boycott for programs at schools around the area talking about Native culture through song, narration and dance, according to his web page. His presentation gave students, “a greater insight into the Indigenous way of life both in the past and in modern society.”
One of LeClair’s talents was not only his ability to speak in his Native tongue, but also in sign language. He was a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.
LeClair was born in Fort Washakie, and his name, “Tall Pine,” was given to him by Clarence Moss. He served in the U.S. Navy at the tail end of the Korean Warin Kwajalein as an airport control operator.
According to LeClair’s obituary, “His most memorable [moment] was when he was asked by the Vatican to participate in the closing ceremonies for the Journey of the Spirit Pilgrimage in Rome along with four monks from Tibet.”
A Rosary will be recited at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, at Davis Funeral Home, 2203 West Main Street, Riverton. A wake will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening, May 31, 2023, at the LeClair residence, 76 Mazet Road, Riverton, with funeral services also at the LeClair residence at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
Read LeClair’s obituary at Wyotoday.com.