The Kenaitze Indian Tribe recently opened the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus (Kenai River People’s Learning Place), a new education center in Kenai, Alaska. The 67,000 sf facility supports core programs and community engagement.
The building is composed of two wings connected by a central indoor plaza. The education wing has classrooms and meeting spaces for the Tribe’s Early Learning preschool, K-12 Yaghanen Youth Language and Culture Program, Community Education and Career Training, and the Dena’ina Language Institute.
The second wing supports school and community activities, featuring a multipurpose room with a second-floor running track. A gathering space can house up to 300 people in banquet-style seating and is used by the tribe for tribal events, meetings, athletics, and other large events. There is also a cultural room for tribal demonstrations.
The campus is designed as a safe place where children can achieve educational milestones while embracing the traditions of the Dena’ina culture. The design responds to local, cultural, and tribal values with each detail providing teaching opportunities beyond the classroom:
- Reclaimed wood is repurposed from the community’s historic cannery, which emphasizes the Tribe’s longstanding fishing traditions.
- A 16-foot diameter tribal seal is embedded in the lobby floor, while a 20-foot diameter rendering of the Tribe’s Traditional Values Wheel is embedded in the multipurpose room floor.
- The building exterior features a custom copper color aluminum panel pattern that simulates salmon skin, a resource central to the Tribe’s identity. The curved design of this element references a circular sense of community.
- Landscape and playground areas were designed to teach children about the natural environment.
To create a warm and nurturing experience, the design emphasized a palette of natural materials throughout the light-filled space. Since overstimulation can result from the use of a strong color scheme, designers selected a balanced combination of accents and natural finishes and textures.
The Kenaitze Indian Tribe was federally recognized as a sovereign, independent nation in 1971 under the Indian Reorganization Act. Today, the tribe has more than 1,800 members who live across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond. It employs about 350 full-time and part-time employees.
On the Building Team:
Owner and/or developer: Stantec
Design architect: Stantec
Architect of record: Stantec
MEP engineer: Stantec
Structural engineer: Stantec
General contractor/construction manager: Blazy Construction Inc.