Representatives from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe made some big announcements regarding the future of the Tribe during a Kenai Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on Thursday.
On April 27, groundbreaking and construction will begin on a recently acquired lot for a new Kenaitze Education Campus. Thanks to a combination of federal grants and Tribal earnings, the Tribe plans to construct two buildings totaling 30,000 square feet on a 5-acre lot located on South Forest Drive, across from the National Guard armory. Bernadine Atchison, vice chairperson of the Tribal Council, said that the campus will be a central location for the different education programs that the Tribe currently offers.
“With all of our programs, we’re kind of scattered. Some at K-Beach, some at our admin building, some at DWC (Dena’ina Wellness Center), and so we wanted to bring our campus together where all of our education programs are at one site,” Atchison said. One of the buildings will facilitate all of the education programs, including Head Start and Early Head Start, after-school programs, the Yaghanen Youth Program and Education and Career Development Programs. The second building will be a multipurpose facility to be used for special events such as annual tribal council meetings and will be capable of hosting up to 300 people.
The project is estimated to cost around $10 million. Tribal Council Chairperson Wayne Wilson said that he expects the facilities to be up and running by the fall of 2020.
Beyond the new education campus, the Kenaitze Tribe has several other developments in the works as well. Last month, the Tribe purchased a parcel of land along the bluff in Old Town Kenai that is currently occupied by the Beluga Lookout RV Park and Lodge. Wilson said that the Tribe has no immediate plans for the Beluga Lookout parcel and intends to keep the RV Park open through the rest of the year. Acquiring that piece of land, Wilson said, was part of the Tribe’s larger goal of expanding their Old Town Campus, which is the location of their ancestral village.
The Tribe is also looking to change the use of some existing facilities in order to accommodate an increased labor pool at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, as well as an increased demand for services. The Na’ini building, which is currently being used for the Tribe’s Social Services, will soon be used instead for Behavioral Health Services. The Social Services staff will in turn be transferred into a renovated section of the Toyon Villa apartments, which are adjacent to the Old Town Campus. These moves are scheduled to take place by the end of this year.
Finally, the Kenaitze Tribal Court building will be expanded thanks to a $1 million grant from the Department of Law. Wilson said that the Tribal Court expansion will occur at the end of 2020 after the new education campus has been completed.