Tribe’s three volcanoes logo a powerful symbol
If you stand on the second-floor track and look down at the Gathering Space at the Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht Campus, you will notice that grain pattern in the flooring runs in three different directions.
In fact, the grain patterns are aligned with the three volcanoes that have become representative of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. Iliamna, Redoubt and Spurr are depicted in the logo that also includes the Tribe’s vision, “To assure Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina thrive forever.” Blue lines in the logo represent Tikahtnu, or Cook Inlet.
“If you see the three volcanoes, you know you’re from this area,” said Sandy K Wilson, a Tribal Member.
Wilson said the three volcanoes have been used on the back of the Tribe’s dance group regalia. She was inspired to get it as a tattoo.
“The three volcanoes, that’s specific to here. It’s my culture. I’m proud to be a Kenaitze Indian. I’m here with my people,” Wilson said.
Audré Hickey, also a Tribal Member, said the logo resonates deeply with her, so much so that she got two tattoos of the three volcanoes in 2016, when she was serving as a Tribal Council Member.
“My grandfather had a setnet site, which is still in the family. I grew up as a young girl, fishing and playing on the beach. (The three volcanoes) have always had a place in my life, and remind me of my grandpa and my Tribe,” Hickey said.
While the Tribe has been using versions of the three volcanoes logo for a number of years, the motif is much older. The pattern that served as the inspiration for the Tribe’s logo comes from a Dena’ina quiver that is housed in a museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The quiver has a depiction of hunters taking a caribou, as well as other animals. The edge of the quiver features a repeating pattern that looks very similar to the Tribe’s logo.
Hickey said she appreciates the long history behind the volcanoes logo, but also that it has been modernized.
“When I stand on the beach, when I see the volcanoes, it invokes a sense of home to me. Our people have been here for thousands of years. My ancestors stood on the same beach and saw the same thing,” Hickey said.
She said that people often ask her about the tattoo, which gives her an opportunity to talk about her Tribe and her home.
Wilson said she also is happy to talk about the Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina when people ask her about her tattoo.
“I’m always happy to share. I’m really proud, that’s who I am,” Wilson said.
In an email, Aaron Leggett, Senior Curator, Alaska History and Indigenous Cultures at the Anchorage Museum, said the quiver appeared in a 1991 exhibition called “Crossroads of Continents” and may have inspired similar use of the symbols on the entrance of the Kenai Visitor Center, which began construction that year.
Leggett said he traveled to St. Petersburg in 2007 and had an up-close view of the quiver. He shared photos of the quiver when he returned home. Leggett said the Anchorage Museum had hoped to include the quiver in its 2013 exhibition
“Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi: The Dena’ina Way of Living,” but geopolitical circumstances prevented it. However, photos were included in the exhibition catalogue.
Leggett noted that it while is speculated that the symbols on the quiver represent volcanoes, the motif is repeated all the way across the bottom of the quiver, and might not specifically reference the volcanoes visible from Kenai.
The Dena’ina name for Mount Iliamna is Ch’naqał’in, meaning “one that stands above.” The name for Mount Redoubt is Bentuggezh K’enulgheli, “one that has a notched forehead,” and the name for Mount Spurr is K’idazq’eni, “one burning inside.”There are a number of different Dena’ina words for “volcano.” Dasgedi t’eł’ani means “one that makes smoke.” Dghili deltełi means “mountain that booms.” And a “volcano that is smoking” is dghelay ghedinq’uni.