A winter celebration known in the Dena’ina language as a Heyi retuned to Kenai on the first Friday in February at the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center (KVCC.) “Since ancient times the Heyi has been a time to connect with family and the people that lived up river or down river from you that you hadn’t been able to see during the summer. A time to share stories and reconnect with those you shared the land with,” said Kenaitze Indian Tribe member Sasha Lindgren,
“Today we opened the Heyi up in the KVCC museum because the traveling Dena’ina Way of Living Exhibit is on display here through May 10th. We wanted to share with all our community, neighbors and friends to say that winter is a good time get together,” she said.
Those who came out for the Heyi enjoyed traditional fry bread and salmon dip provided by several tribe members from salmon caught at the tribes educational fishery, “Whenever we get together we share our food. We sit and talk and share stories and songs,” said Lindgren.
Throughout the day the winter celebration included music and stories by Artz Kilcher and Kenai Tribe member Bunny Swan. The Kenai exhibit is a condensed version of the Dena’ina Way of Living that opened originally in Anchorage and involves state of the art digital displays that bring the culture to life in the 21st century.
“Peter Kalifornsky and all our elders contributed in their way to building a base for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe from which we have been able to grow, revitalize and preserve and protect our culture while working together with our community so we can all be happy living here on the Kenai Peninsula, the good land and we look forward to doing it again next year,” she said.