Lane students and community members socialize and eat during the Native American Potluck and Crafts Night, Tuesday, Jan. 24 in the Longhouse on Lane’s main campus.

Community members gather in the Longhouse on Lane’s main campus each week for Native American Potluck and Crafts Night. Congregated around a single, long table in the Great Room, children, adults and elders commune with one another over dinner.

The Potluck and Crafts Night is held each Tuesday from 6 – 9 p.m. in the Longhouse, Building 31, Great Room, Room 101.

Before the meal, the night begins with community announcements and a Native American blessing. Many attendees bring food for the potluck to share. Some bring traditional, home-cooked meals, while others bring pre-prepared food from the grocery store. Individuals supply their own crafts and work on them after the meal. Some people bring traditional Native American crafts to work on, which typically have a spiritual aspect, while others work on secular crafts or drawing.

The event is also an opportunity for elders to pass on their culture. Students with little or no knowledge of native crafts are welcomed to learn through observation and participation.

“The philosophy with the crafts here is to carry on the trade, craft and traditions of the tribes,” Ted Vasquez, community member, said.

The community at the Longhouse provides a diverse tribal representation. Some of the community members who regularly attend events descend from tribes including Apache, Pala, Dakota Sioux, Cherokee, Cheyenne and Blackfoot.

Ian Trautman / The Torch
Community member, Aleta Miller, works on a contemporary rendition of a traditional medicine wheel at the event, Jan. 24.

The Longhouse was opened in Dec. 2010. Dean Middleton, Multimedia Services Coordinator, was a member of the committee designing the Longhouse. Middleton said that the establishment and building of the Longhouse was a community-oriented task. All the cedar wood used internally was donated by the community. Students and community members split cedar logs and divided them into planks using traditional Native American mallets and wedges.

The Honor Room, adjacent to the Great Room, features nine glass showcases, one for each federally recognized Oregon tribe. Some of the showcases have artifacts donated by the respective tribe, some are still empty. The Honor Room is also intended for healing prayer.

“The Longhouse is a place of healing,” Vasquez said, “a sacred place.”

Lane offers several credit courses in the Longhouse as part of the Chinuk Wawa Program, but the building is also used for community events. Anyone, student or not, can request use of the Longhouse as long as the involved parties adhere to the guidelines that ensure that the Longhouse is used respectfully and as intended. Among other things the Longhouse is equipped with a commercial kitchen, an outdoor roasting pit, classrooms and video conference capabilities.

“The Longhouse is a part of the community. It’s not just students, not just faculty,” community member Marcy Middleton said.