Barnadine Atchison speaks during a business luncheon at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Barnadine Atchison speaks during a business luncheon at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenaitze educational hub slated for completion next spring

The Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus, meaning “the learning place,” has been in the works for more than 20 years.

A new education hub for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe that will accommodate cultural activities and tribal programs is expected to open next spring in Kenai. That’s according to Kenaitze Tribal Council Chair Bernadine Atchison, who spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday.

The Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus, meaning “the learning place,” has been in the works for more than 20 years and is scheduled to be complete in March of 2022. When finished, the campus will be more than 67,000 square feet and will serve as a place to host the tribe’s education programs.

“One good thing about our education campus is it kind of pulls everything together into one place,” Atchison said.

The site of the campus, near the intersection of Kenai Spur Highway and S Forest Drive, is significant to the Kenaitze Tribe because it is close to one of their traditional villages and also has access to the beach, Atchison said. Of significance is that they will be able to see Mount Iliamna, Mount Redoubt and Mount Spurr, which are features of Kenaitze’s logo.

“It’s a very significant area over there,” Atchison said. “We’re very happy that we were able to select that spot.”

The 5-acre lot will accommodate the campus’s main structure, parking areas, a playground, a rain garden and a trail aimed at encouraging outdoor activities and facilitating Dena’ina cultural learning, according to information shared during the Wednesday chamber meeting. The site also allows those outdoor activities to expand to Kenai Municipal Park and to the beach if needed.

A “semi-circular welcoming space” will connect the campus’s different structures and serve as the main plaza for the tribe’s education community. The education wing’s first level will host Kuya Qyut’anen Early Childhood Center preschool and after-school programs, while the second level will host administrative spaces and classrooms for the K-12 Yaghanen Youth Program, Education and Career Training and Dena’ina language programs. The basement will be made available as a space for programs to grow.

The campus will also include a multipurpose facility with space for indoor and cultural activities like the Native Youth Olympics, a walking and running track and a gathering space. A cafeteria and commercial kitchen will also be part of the campus.

“The facility is designed to adapt to future uses, as needs and technology change over time, while maintaining aesthetic sensitivity with the use of local reclaimed cannery wood and other relevant cultural references,” a flyer distributed during Wednesday’s luncheon says.

The tribe worked to contract with local businesses during the construction of the campus, including Nelson Engineering, Livewire Electric, Peninsula Paving and Pro Finish Painting, among others.

“I did want to recognize that the tribe supports many local businesses,” Atchison said.

The Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus, Atchison said, is one of many the tribe will focus on this summer. Others include the expansion of their tribal court and a Tribal Fishery Harvest Pavilion.

More information about the work of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe can be found at kenaitze.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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