Community Member

Dot Lake Village

Fairbanks, Alaska

The Native Village of Dot Lake, an Upper Tanana Athabascan tribe in Alaska, is confronting numerous challenges: from toxic contamination, mining, a lack of access to modern healthcare, and systemic racism toward Alaskan Natives. Contaminants from military dumps, a local oil and gas pipeline, and a recently shuttered meth lab all threaten nearby wetlands and subsistence areas. Taken in concert with pollutants from the SM-1A Nuclear Power Plant and the Gerstile River Test Site, Dot Lake contended with troubling rates of leukemia, breast cancer, lymphoma and stomach cancer. Additionally, the community is now battling the new Manh Choh Gold Mine. Sixty-five trucks are scheduled to haul ore daily on the area’s main road, threatening the integrity of two World War II-era bridges that the Department of Transportation has deemed in desperate need of repair. Alongside the risks that the mining industry and the associated “man camps” pose to Native communities in particular, the failure of these bridges would cut Dot Lake off from the outside world. Though fighting on multiple fronts, the Native Village of Dot Lake is devoted to ensuring the sustainability of their way of life.

Dot Lake Village is confronting multiple sources of contamination, primarily from military dumps in the region, including a former nuclear missile site, an oil pipeline, and a recently shut down methamphetamine site. The details of these contaminants, the extent to which they were cleaned up and the impacts that they are having on residents are unknown. There are very high reported cancer rates in the community.

Dot Lake Village is a sovereign indigenous nation in Alaska and a federally recognized native Alaskan tribe. Dot Lake is a federally registered non-profit. The Dot Lake Village community is made up of 180 tribal members, managed by a 5-member council whose current president, Tracy Charles-Smith, is the granddaughter of the village founder. The village council works to improve and protect the village and its surrounding environment. Through their efforts, the council has shut down two meth labs and provided social services that have reduced meth addiction in the village from 80% of citizens prior to 2020, to almost zero as of 2023. Dot Lake has also set up two safe houses for abused and sexually assaulted women, with access to a staff therapist and two case workers. Other improvements, including the purchase of an ambulance, incinerators at the landfill, and water filtration systems, have significantly improved the quality of life in the village.

For more information:

Alaska is facing a massive mineral boom, but at what cost? – Grist, July 2023

Dot Lake Village weighs in on Kinross man camp – Safe Alaska Highways, November 2023

Tiny community devastated by cancer – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, December 2004

Stewart Sinclair

Stewart Sinclair

Stewart L. Sinclair is a writer, editor and educator from Ventura, California. His essays, reportage and narrative nonfiction have appeared in Guernica, The Millions, The Morning News, The New Orleans Review, Creative Nonfiction’s “True Story” series and elsewhere.


Alan Faulkner and Tracy Charles-Smith

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Climate Impacts

Earthquakes, Wildfires

Environmental Justice Concerns

Fighting Development/Destruction of Wildlife/Extinction of Species, Groundwater Contamination, Incinerator/Dumping/Landfill, Port/Transit/Highway Contamination/Noise


Community Organizing and Education, Community Science, Policy Reform

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