Village Sanitation

Village sanitation water pump

Village Sanitation Program's water pump, circa 1960

Village sanitation education

The program used village representatives to help disseminate sanitation education to village families. 

Alaska Native Village Sanitation Program

Alaskan village sanitation public works and education efforts of the 1950s and 1960s faced a set of challenges particular to the area. The tundra, permafrost and low river gradient impacted drainage; while the winter’s accumulations of snow grime and village refuse remained on the ground through most of the summer.


The difficulties of tapping into reliable, ongoing water supply through the permafrost resulted in the reuse of household water for both cooking and cleaning. In addition, at the initiation of the village sanitation program, toilets and outdoor refuse storage containers were nearly non-existent due to snow drifts and the complications of digging pits in the permafrost. 


The Alaska Native Village Sanitation Program, initiated in the 1950s, provided community water supply facilities development, installed adequate household and communal water storage tanks, constructed waste disposal facilities, and promoted fuel conservation strategies. 




Village sanitation food preparation

Young girls cleaning fish in a boat, one using an old tin can lid as a cutting utensil. The program provided food preparation and storage education. 

Village sanitation individual drinking glasses

The program promoted the use of individual drinking glasses rather than communal drinking vessels. 

Village sanitation dog houses

The program encouraged families to re-purpose oil drums for dog houses, rather than allow dogs to share cramped family living quarters.

Lantis's Involvement

Lantis’s involvement with Public Health Service sanitation projects during the 1950s culminated in a contract to evaluate the milestones, effectiveness, and ongoing challenges of the Alaska Native Village Sanitation Program’s first five years.


A major thrust of the program was its Sanitation Aide division. This Public Health Service initiative selected village representatives to facilitate local sanitation education efforts. Utilizing a train-the-trainer model, the program provided training in fundamental sanitation principles, including the importance of safe water supply and sewage and refuse disposal. 


The collection includes Lantis's village sanitation field notes, photographs, and resulting Public Health Service publications. Notes from a 1957 Native Village Sanitation quarterly meeting list the following program priorities for the year’s final quarter:


Installation projects:

  • Air back pressure devices for protecting water supply lines during freezing temperatures
  • Outside water storage tanks for houses and businesses
  • Composter waste disposal units
  • Chemical toilets


Education projects:

  • Lakes used to harvest ice for drinking water should be kept free of travel
  • Dogs should be tethered in designated village areas rather than the home’s front door
  • The why's and how to's of germ theory
  • The why's and how to's of boiling water
  • The why's and how to's of central waste disposal sites
  • The why's and how to's of fly and mosquito control in the summer camps
  • The why's and how to's of proper food preparation and storage facilities