In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Native American students at the UO asked administration to create a place where they could help each other successfully survive the college experience. They envisioned a place where traditional cultures, values and life ways could be maintained when away from their Native communities. This group eventually became the Native American Student Union (NASU).
The UO allowed NASU to use a retired World War II army barracks to serve as the first University of Oregon Longhouse. From the 1970s and through 2002 the original UO Longhouse served numerous generations of Native students—a place to study, socialize, and maintain traditional culture. The rapidly deteriorating condition of the UO Longhouse, however, posed a problem. Despite becoming a much beloved location to congregate, the floor was rotting, the toilet fell through the floor, and one side of the building had a tree growing through the floorboards. The UO Longhouse was condemned three different times since the 1970s.
During the spring of 2002, the UO Longhouse was permanently decommissioned and demolished. A new longhouse was to be constructed in the same spot. Choctaw and Cherokee architect, Johnpaul Jones, UO alum and lead architect for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. was asked to design a Kalapuya-styled longhouse replicating the housing structures of the indigenous peoples who lived at that location.
Partnering with the UO, the nine federally recognized Tribes of Oregon each contributed to the construction of the new Many Nations Longhouse. Contributions of cash, timber, and materials were provided by the tribes—the first time all nine contributed to a community structure in modern history.
On January 11, 2005, the nine Tribes of Oregon entered into agreement with President Dave Frohnmayer, the principles and spirit on which the longhouse was proposed and built. The Many Nations Longhouse (MNL) grand opening drew elders, community members, students, and alumni from all over Oregon. The MNL was blessed as a sacred place and dedicated as sacred ground.
Since 2005 the MNL has been home for NASU, the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA), Native American faculty and staff, and the local Native American community who continue to participate in events that are held at the Many Nations Longhouse on a year round basis including weekly potlucks. The tribal chairs from Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes hold two meetings each year at the MNL as part of the President’s Native American Advisory Council. In addition, tribal governments periodically hold council meetings at the MNL. The MNL continues to be a place of congregation as well as a symbolic embassy for tribal governments.