The sound of drums, Native American prayers and songs filled Lane’s Longhouse on Jan. 18 as approximately 40 people gathered to celebrate the life of Richard Archambault who died on Nov. 18, 2014.
Archambault, a Lane alumnus who self-identified as a Lakota Indian, was a key person who led the planning and construction of the Longhouse. He spent the last ten years of his life working with LCC’s native students and finding the cedar logs and hand-splitting planks for the main room walls of the Longhouse.
Archambault, a Vietnam veteran and retired police officer, graduated from LCC and sought a degree in photojournalism. He spent time volunteering at both Lane and the Sweet Home Forest Service.
The ceremony started with the Lakota prayer and continued with a drum piece that brought the crowd to tears, followed by speeches and many happy memories.
“I will be forever grateful that Richard came into the life of Lane Community College and gave his time to help us all. I will miss his smile and his infectious optimism, but I will always remember what he did to make this Longhouse a reality,” Lane Community College President, Mary Spilde said.
Community elder and retired Lane Native American Programs Coordinator, Frank Merrill spoke about meeting Archambault as he was searching for his identity. Merrill participated in drum circles at LCC every Monday night. Archambault would come to watch, but never participated.
Merrill reminisced about Archambault saying he knew he was Indian, but didn’t know how to live like one. Merrill helped Archambault along his path to self-identity and the two worked together in the creation of the Longhouse. “He understood how important it was to find that identity and I’m sure glad I was a big part of that life, because after I seen Richard become a part of my family, he was like a brother to me,” Merrill said.
Alumni from the Native American Student Association took turns speaking about their trip to Washington, D.C. with Archambault and his role as a mentor to them while they were in school. “We all have people in life that kind of moved us to be who we are and for whatever reason, to kind of clear our path a little bit,” NASA alumnus Morgan Caughey said, “I feel Richard was one of those people for me.”
Archambault’s son, Richard Archambault Jr., came to the memorial from out of state. He was presented with his father’s eagle feather and heard several stories about his father’s time in Oregon. The two were not close after Archambault’s return from Vietnam and his descent into alcoholism. Even after Archambault became sober, his son had been concerned that his father would end his life alone, but said he was pleased to see the loving community his father had found at Lane.
The afternoon ended with poems, songs and a potluck in celebration of Archambault’s life.