The Village of Dot Lake is a traditional Upper Tanana Athabascan village, located south of the Tanana River, two-tenths of a mile southeast of the Alaska Highway near Dot Lake, 50 miles northwest of Tok and 155 road miles southeast of Fairbanks
Official Tribal Name: Village of Dot Lake
Address: Dot Lake Services Corporation, P.O. Box 2259, Dot Lake, AK 99737
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Alaskan Ethnic Group: Indians
Alaskan Native Culture: Upper Tanana Athabascan
Alaska Geographical Region:
Alaska Borough / Census Area:
Alaska Native Regional Corporation: Doyon, Limited
Alaska Village Corporation: Dot Lake Native Corporation
Alaska Native Association: Tanana Chiefs Conference
Agency: Southeast Fairbanks Census Area
Language: Tanacross Athabascan
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Kelt’aaddh Menn, meaning unknown. It has always been a mystery how Dot Lake got its’ name. Some thoughts are it was because the lake looked like a dot, others thought it was because the lake was so small.With the loss of all the elders, the true origin of the name may never be known.
Alternate Names / Spellings:
Dot Lake Village is located near Dot Lake on the Alaska Highway, 50 miles northwest of Tok and 155 road miles southeast of Fairbanks, and two miles south of the Tanana River.
The Dot Lake is composed of two sub-communities; the Native Village of Dot Lake, which is located north of the Alaska Highway, between milepost 1360.5 and milepost 1361.5 and extends north to the Tanana River. It includes U.S. Survey No. 3217, U.S. Survey No. 3123, U.S. Survey No. 4285, and all lands conveyed to the State of Alaska intrust under Section 14 (c) (3) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
The other community is referred to as the Highway Community, which is located outside of the native village boundaries and includes U.S Survey 3124, U.S. Survey No. 3614, and U.S. Survey No. 4325. All other lands within the area, with the exception of a few Native Allotments, belong to the Dot Lake Native Corporation.
Archaeological evidence at nearby Healy Lake revealed more than 10,000 years of human habitation. Dot Lake was used as a seasonal hunting camp for Athabascans from George Lake and Tanacross. A Native freight trail ran north to the Yukon River through Northway, Tetlin, Tanacross, and Dot Lake. Several local Natives worked on the road project.
During construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942-43, a work camp called Sears City occupied Dot Lake’s present location. Upon completion of this section of the highway the camp was abandoned and the structures left in place.
Dot Lake Village is now a census-designated place (CDP).
The Native village was first settled by Doris Charles and her family in 1946.
During the mid 1940’s, in search of a better life for her and her family, Doris Charles set out from Tanacross with her children. She caught a ride to an area now called Paul’s Cabin, which was a traditional hunting camp for some of the natives of Tanacross. Paul’s Cabin is located approximately thirteen miles east of Dot Lake, along the Tanana River.
Eventually, Doris moved her family to the area now known as Dot Lake and established her home. This area had traditionally been used as a hunting camp by the natives of the area and Doris and her children were the only residents at the time.
Eventually, her husband Peter and his father Big Albert joined the rest of the family and thus established what is now known as the Native Village of Dot Lake.
Over the years, other individuals and families moved to the area, the first among these was the Fred Vogel family, (a non native missionary family from California) and the Andrew Isaac family (a native family from Tanacross).
Shortly thereafter, Abraham Luke and his family moved to the area from Sam Lake (now know as Sand Lake) and Gene Henry of Batzulnetas/Tanacross moved to Dot Lake, followed later by Paul Henry and his family.
Peter and Andrew were informed that if they wanted to ensure that they retained the land they would have to get a title to it. Peter applied for a lot with good highway frontage, while Andrew and Fred applied for lots with less highway frontage. A land swap between Peter Charles and Fred Vogel resulted in Peter’s and Andrew’s land being next to each other and Fred’s land being on the highway, outside what is now considered as the Native Village of Dot Lake.
Abraham, Gene and Paul applied for and received Native Allotments within the area and made Dot Lake their home. Some of the old Sears City structures were relocated to the village area. In addition, some of the materials left behind by the Army were used to construct small homes for the remaining families. This resulted in the five native families having small, poorly insulated homes to live in.
The Charles home was the largest and had been insulated with sawdust.
With the arrival of Maggie Isaac’s Mother Bessie (also lovingly known as Grandma Walters) and her brother Jimmie, who lived in a tent until they obtained a small cabin, the village had about twenty-five native residents.
Fred constructed a lodge on his land, and by 1949 had also constructed a post office, school, and the Dot Lake Community Chapel. A licensed children’s home was built by the Vogels in 1967, and the Dot Lake Lodge was constructed in 1973. The North Star Children’s Home closed in the mid-1990s. The lodge is also closed.
The Native families retained their subsistence lifestyles of hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering, subsidizing this lifestyle with employment that they could find, such as construction.
Being located along the road system they had access to a number of benefits that other villages did not have. Peter and Jimmie obtained vehicles and were able to travel and purchase supplies with less difficulty than residents in other villages that did not have highway access.
For a number of years, the Native Village made little to no progress in advancing or changing their lifestyle. Remaining with just the bare necessities, the village residents seemed content.
The lodge had electricity and running water, the village residents depended on hand driven wells or lake water, oil lamps for light and outhouses.
After a period of time, the lodge was leased out and the new operator extended an electric line from the lodge generator to Peter Charles home. There was great excitement when the first light bulb was turned on, this meant the oil lamps would become a thing of the past.
By the late 1950’s to early 1960’s, new electric appliances were making life a little better and easier for these families.
Things within the village remained very much the same, until 1971, at which time, through funding provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services, seven new homes were constructed.
Included in this project was a central heat and water system for these new homes. The project also provided some local employment and training for village residents. For the first time, most of the residents of the Native Village of Dot Lake had inside plumbing, hot water baseboard heat, and electricity. They were also able to do their laundry without traveling a hundred miles to do it. This was the first step into modern living for a number of the residents of the village.
The utility building, constructed in conjunction with this project, contained a small laundry facility, five small oil fired boilers and the central well that provided water for the homes and the laundry. The heat and water distribution system was comprised of approximately eleven hundred feet of domestic cold water line and approximately twenty-two hundred feet of hot water heat line, which was sandwiched in Styrofoam. This, in turn, was buried approximately twelve inches. Each individual home had a propane hot water heater to provide hot water and a zone valve and circulating pump, that was controlled by a thermostat to provide heat.
For the elderly, which at the time was four of the seven families, this was a great advantage. They no longer had to cut firewood or haul water. Also, the fire danger was reduced because the only flame within the homes was the propane kitchen stove and the propane hot water heater. Because of the design of the distribution system and the fact that the water line was plastic, the system developed a number of problems.
The most predominant problem was the water line being broken because of people driving over it. This system was upgraded in 1984.
The 1970’s brought a number of changes to the Native Village of Dot Lake with the passage of The Alaska Native Claims Settle Act (ANCSA). Under the provisions of ANCSA, the State of Alaska was divided into twelve regions, each of which represented the Alaskan Native Tribes within their region.
The regional corporations received some land and cash as a part of the settlement; they also received the subsurface rights to the land selected by the village corporations within their region. In addition, there was a thirteenth region formed to represent those Alaskan Natives that did not want to enroll in a specific tribe.
Dot Lake is within the Doyon Region. The Native Village of Dot Lake had forty-five tribal members and received over sixty-nine thousand acres of land. They were also required to form a Corporation, under State law, in order to receive the land. The Dot Lake Native Corporation was formed, with forty-five original shareholders, each receiving one hundred shares of the new corporation.
The land and cash settlement was transferred to the new corporation and not to the Tribe. Lands that had for generations been used by the local natives for hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering, would now be considered as private lands. Each village in the area received land under ANCSA and some tensions began to develop between tribes, as the lands started to be posted and restrictions placed on the use of them, areas that had been used in the past were now no longer available for families to hunt, trap or gather on.
No longer were the traditional ways observed. Traditional areas that had been used, but were now part of another villages land, could not be used without permission of the newly formed corporations. The old ways were being replaced with western ways of land ownership.
To many of the elders, this was the beginning of the end of their traditional lifeway.
The new generation would have to be trained in both corporate management and Tribal operations. There were now both shareholders and tribal members. Some individuals were Tribal members and not shareholders, while others were shareholders and not Tribal members, still others were both Tribal members and shareholders.
This has led to much confusion because individuals did not know where to go for help. Tribal membership is something you receive at birth or by adoption and have until death, while shares are something you are given or you inherit and can be passed on to others.
The corporation had to treat all shareholders equally and could not assist in many needs, while the Tribe could assist individuals or groups, such as elders, while not assisting others. If the Tribe had received the land and cash, they could have initiated programs to assist elders or individuals in need, without having to face the possibility of a lawsuit from other Tribal members.
There were also the Regional Corporations, which also issued one hundred shares to their original shareholders. These shares could be passed on through inheritance. Under the authority of the 1990 amendments to ANCSA, the corporations were authorized to issue additional shares to individuals born after 1971, which have become known as “new borns or after borns”.
They were also allowed to issue additional stock to elders. This only added to the confusion, because there are now a number of different types of stock, some of which cannot not be inherited or passed on, but are to be returned to the corporation upon the shareholder’s death, while others could be inherited or passed on.
Climate and Topography:
Dot Lake is located in the continental climatic zone, where winters are cold and summers are warm. In winter, cool air settles in the valley, and ice fog and smoke conditions are common.
The average low temperature during December, January, and February is -22 °F. The average high temperature during June, July, and August is 65 °F. Extreme temperatures ranging from a low of -75 to a high of 90 °F have been measured.
Average annual precipitation is 9 inches, and annual snowfall averages 27 inches.
The Village of Dot Lake is located on the edge of a terrace which is approximately ten to twelve feet above a vast waterlogged floodplain containing mosses, sedges and low growing shrubs. The terrace contains small stands of aspen, paper birch and white spruce, indicating well drained soil conditions.
The soils within the village area are mostly sand and gravel, with pockets of clay. These soils are very well suited to construction and have served the village residents well in the construction of their homes. Most of the village area is approximately twelve to twenty feet above the water table and, in the past, individuals have driven their own wells by using a sand point.
The foothills to the south of the village contain dense stands of black spruce, indicating areas of poorly drained soil and the presence of permafrost. No permafrost exists within the village area.
The Tanana River is approximately two miles north of the village area. The plain north of the village may experience high water during flooding stages of the Tanana River but the village is in very little danger of flooding because of it being approximately ten to twelve feet above the plain and the vast area the plain covers. There has never been any flooding condition reported in the immediate area of the village.
Transportation Services and Facilities:
Approximately ten operational automobiles and four or five operational trucks are owned by village residents. Local residents also own approximately five snow machines and seven four wheelers.
Residents travel to Tok, Delta Junction or Fairbanks for most of their personal supplies. Some residents will travel to Anchorage, a distance of approximately three hundred seventy-five miles, a few times a year for supplies.
Alaska Direct bus line is available from Dot Lake to Delta Junction, Fairbanks and Anchorage. A one-way ticket to Fairbanks is $70.00 and a oneway ticket to Anchorage is $100.00 (plus $10.00 per bag). Compare this to 1980, when a one-way ticket to Fairbanks was $15.00 on Alaska Coach Ways.
Access by air is very limited. At one time there was an eleven hundred forty foot runway located just north of the lodge, however, it was closed. In emergencies, light aircraft can land on the highway.
The village is not directly accessible by water since the Tanana River is two miles away. A few of the village residents own riverboats which they use for hunting and fishing.
Local Governmental Services:
Dot Lake is an unincorporated community within the unorganized borough of the State of Alaska. As such, they are represented, at the state level, by the State of Alaska Legislature.
The Native Village of Dot Lake is a federally recognized Alaskan Native Tribe, governed by a five member Traditional Council elected by the Tribal members. The five member village council is recognized by the federal government as the authorized governing body for the Tribe, and as such, is authorized to administer a number of federal programs.
The federal programs, presently administered by the village council, include the Indian Child Welfare program, a BIA Roads program, an Environmental Protection Agency program and a BIA contract. These programs provide the majority of funding for the Tribe.
The Dot Lake Native Corporation is governed by a five member Board of Directors. One member of the Board of Directors also serves on the Village Council.
The highway community is represented by a non-profit organization (the Dot Lake Services Corporation). In the past, this organization has been eligible for and has received funding through the State of Alaska Revenue Sharing and Capital Projects Programs.
Because of the reduction in population this organization is no longer eligible for funding from the State of Alaska, which in the past has required a minimum of twenty-five residents living together in a social unit.
All occupied homes within the village have wells or are connected to the central water system. Outside the village area, most of the residences have individual wells. During September and October of 1984, a central septic system was installed in the village.
All of the homes, that are serviced by the central water system, including the village utility building, are also serviced by a central septic system. The remaining homes within the village area have individual septic systems. The tri-plex and the school have individual septic systems, while the Office Complex and the Community Hall share a septic system.
The Village Council developed a landfill, approximately one and a half mile from the core village area. The landfill is located on 14(c) (3) lands that had been transferred to the State of Alaska in trust. In the mid 1990’s, the village council installed a “burn box” at the landfill. Residents haul their own trash and place it in the burn box, which in turn is burned, prior to being emptied into the landfill trench. This has greatly reduced the amount of trash. It has also reduced the problem with ravens, seagulls and bears in the area.
At the present time, the only fire protection available to the residents at Dot Lake is a “Project Code Red System,” that was obtained a few years ago. It consists of two small six foot by four foot trailers, containing a limited amount of fire fighting equipment. In addition, a number of homes have individual fire extinguishers. There is a volunteer fire department located in Tok, fifty miles away, and one located in Delta Junction, sixty-five miles away. The village council has also installed street lights in part of the village.
Other Services and Utilities:
The Alaska State Troopers based in Tok provide law enforcement services upon request. Recently, they have been making weekly visits to the village.
Health services are provided by Tanana Chiefs Health Authority (TCHA), which is a department within the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), the non-profit Native Corporation for Interior Alaska.
TCHA administers health services through grants and contracts from both state and federal governments. Village health aides and alternates are trained in village health surveillance and preventive health care.
Additional health care is available at the Tok Clinic, a distance of fifty miles or Delta Junction, a distance of sixty miles.
Dental care is provided through visits by the TCC Dental Clinic or a dentist in Tok. The public health nurse, on her visits, deals primarily with preventive health care, conducts clinics in prenatal care, family planning and well baby and child care. She also gives immunizations, deals with communicable disease prevention and treatment, home visits and referral.
Patients requiring extensive medical treatment are typically taken to hospitals in Fairbanks, Anchorage, or Glennallen. In emergencies, patients can be evacuated by private vehicle, air charter, or ambulance from Tok or Delta Junction.
Telephone and electric service in the area is presently provided by Alaska Power and Telephone Company (AP&T). Historically, telephone service was provided through the use of what was referred to as “the farmers’ lines.” These were the old military telephone line that had been installed along the highway. At the time, there were about seven subscribers, all on the same line, with different rings for each subscriber.
During this same time, electrical power was provided by the Dot Lake Power Company, using a diesel fired generator. The power was not very dependable and would range anywhere from 55 cycles to 66 cycles. It was useless for items such as electric clocks that depended on a steady sixty cycle power supply.
In 1982, AP&T obtained the utility rights for the area and upgraded the generation system to make it more dependable and insure a steady sixty cycle supply. At the same time, AP&T also obtained the telephone system and used the old farmer lines.
About 1990, AP&T constructed a power line from their station in Tok to Dot Lake. Initially, they installed a power line in the old telephone poles, using an earth return. This system did not work well, as it interfered with the telephones.
Eventually, they constructed a telephone station at Dot Lake and discontinued the use of the telephone lines. Today there are about twelve individual subscribers, in addition to six phone lines at the village council office, one at the school, one at our Alcohol Office and one at the village clinic. All of these are private lines.
Most families within Dot Lake have a radio and can, because of a relay that has been installed in the area, tune into KJNP radio station. They also have access to Alaska Rural Communications Service (ARCS), which is a state operated television station. Some families have subscribed to satellite T.V., such as Dish Network. Newspapers read by areas residents include the Tok Mukluk News, the Delta Wind, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and the Anchorage Daily News.
The first school opened in Dot Lake in approximately 1953. It was a small twelve by twenty-four foot wood frame structure. The school did not have inside plumbing or running water. Heat was provided by a wood stove.
The first class consisted of fifteen students, ranging in age from six to eighteen. For some of the children this was their first exposure to formal education.
Mr. Alsa F. Gavin was the first teacher at Dot Lake. He had taught at Eagle the previous year, but upon closure of that school, applied for and received the position as teacher at Dot Lake.
Between 1953 and 1963, a new school had been constructed at a new location (Lot 1 of U.S. Survey No. 4285). The new school had inside plumbing and heat was provided by an oil stove. This structure was larger than the old school. It was approximately twenty-four by sixty-four feet and was divided into a classroom and living quarters for the teacher.
The structure was what was called an earthquake proof building and was constructed with two by four walls, re-enforced with threaded rod. This school served the village and the community for a number of years until the present school was constructed.
The next school, which was constructed in 1977, contained two classrooms, a lunchroom, bathrooms, a boiler room and an office. Between 1977 and 1985, an addition was added to the school, which included a new classroom, bathroom, a gym and another office. This is the school that presently serves Dot Lake.
At the present time, this school is a part of the Alaska Gateway School District (AGSD) and is a K-12 school.
Employment / Economy:
In the beginning, residents of Dot Lake depended on trapping, seasonal jobs, the sale of arts and craft items, or outside support for income.
Shortly after being settled, Fred and Jackie Vogel constructed a lodge, which was outside the village area. This business offered some employment for village residents.
With the belief that there were children in the surrounding area that needed a good home, Fred and Jackie added on to the lodge and made a small children’s home. In later years, they constructed a larger children’s home on their homestead, which they named The North Star Children’s Home. During the time they owned the home they operated it by themselves.
The home was sold to Carl and Ruth Charles, who also operated it themselves for a few years and them sold it to a Christian group from North Pole, Alaska. They operated it until approximately 1996, at which time they closed it up.
During this time, it employed approximately six to eight individuals, all of which were non-locals.
While the home was in operation it provided a home for anywhere from five to fifteen children at a time. Most of these children were wards of the State and were placed at the home until their family life stabilized or they reached the age of eighteen. The State of Alaska paid a set amount for each child placed at the home.
As time went by, residents realized that in order to make a living, they would be required to seek employment outside the village. A number of the village residents worked at seasonal jobs, road construction being the primary way of making a living. Today, there are still a limited number of job opportunities available for Dot Lake residents.
There is a health aide at the village clinic, a Tribal Family Youth Specialist (TFYS), a Tribal Administrator and a Health Aide, (employed by TCC), a village maintenance person, an Administrative Assistant, a Tribal Environmental Protection Agency Specialist and an Indian Child Welfare Coordinator (employed by the Village Council), a school maintenance person, a Teacher’s Aide and one or two teachers (employed by the AGSD).
During the fire season, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employs some residents as firefighters. Some residents depend on seasonal construction jobs, sale of Native arts and crafts, or trapping to supplement their income.
Subsistence activities are still particularly important — moose, ducks, geese, ptarmigan, porcupines, caribou, whitefish, and other freshwater fish are utilized. Salmon are primarily obtained from the Copper River area, where a number of residents have extended families or trade whitefish for salmon. Food is stored in small cache houses on stilts to keep wild animals from invading their food supplies.
Income / Poverty Level:
In 2012, the median income for a household in the CDP was $16,250, and the median income for a family was $16,667. Males had a median income of $28,750 versus $0 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $7,476. None of the families and 19.0% of the population were below the poverty line. None of those under the age of 18 or above the age of 65 were living below the poverty line.
In 1971, seven new homes were constructed along the lake. The Dot Lake Native Corporation developed a shareholder’s subdivision, consisting of 53 one-acre lots.
In 1994 and 1996, nine additional Indian Housing Authority homes were built.
As of 2000, the population of Dot Lake was 38. The population density was 10.5 people per square mile (4.0/km²). There were 25 housing units at an average density of 6.9/sq mi (2.7/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 23.68% White, 57.89% Native American, and 18.42% from two or more races.
The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00. For every 100 females there were 171.4 males.
In the spring of 2008 approximately 41 individuals lived within the Native Village. There has been a slow steady increase from the original 23 residents. This increase can be attributed to the building of new homes and the influx of new families.
Approximately 9 individuals live along the highway. This reflects a decrease from a high of approximately 40 individuals during the 1990’s. The decrease can be attributed to the closing of the children’s home, the lodge and the motel, in addition to recent deaths.
In 2011, the total population was 55. Today, the Village is approximately ninety percent Alaskan Native, while the highway community is approximately thirty percent Alaskan Native.
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People of Note:
In the News: