When you walk in the forest, have you ever thrown a piece of garbage in a hole? Or have you ever seen a large depression in the ground and decided to use it as a toilet? Did you ever imagine that this hole of that depression might be very valuable to the Peninsula? Well, there is a good chance that you just threw trash or did your business in a significant cultural site on the Kenai. These sites are everywhere: along the riverbanks, under bridges, at the bottom of trees and in open fields.
Unknown to many, the Peninsula was home to thousands of people known as the "Dena'ina." They lived on each side of the Kenai River and called the 85 miles of water Kahtnu. They lived in warm log houses called nichit. They also used cache pits to store food in the winter. Today, these sites are simply depressions in the ground. I have noticed that they are being vandalized by tourists as well as residents. The people don't know what these sites are and simply trash them out of ignorance. When garbage and toilet refuse piles up in these areas, cultural value is diminished. What a shame to come upon these ancient reminders of who lived here before all of us and find them so disrespected.
My Caring for the Kenai project in Mr. Fredric's class is a 6-minute video on You Tube.com explaining all of the above mentioned problems, as well as possible solutions to this issue on the Kenai. The ideas covered in the video are: posters, public awareness, and education. The more the people know, the more sites won't be trashed and the land itself will heal. The video is on You Tube under the name "Dena'ina Cache Pit and House Site Awareness."
So, when you're out for a stroll this spring and discover one of these sites, think twice before throwing that used diaper in there. You might be trashing the remnants of the people who cherished this land like we do today.
Josie Jones, Kenai Central High School
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