The name Minto comes from the Tanana name Men Tee Khughottheet, ‘on the riverside among the lakes’. A more recent name for New Minto is Menan’ K’oget which means, ‘his face gets chapped’.
Because of annual flooding, this village was moved inland from the Tanana River to higher ground in 1971. The first potlatch held in New Minto to celebrate the move lasted for five days. On the first night alone, the dancing was so vigorous that all the insulation on the floor of the new community hall was knocked off.
Minto is now 11 miles from the Elliot Highway and one of the few villages in the school district with road access to Fairbanks. It is located 50 air miles west of Fairbanks.
New Minto is located on a hill overlooking the lakes of Minto Flats. Being so close to the lakes, the Minto area is a good place for duck and muskrat hunting. Because they are situated among the lakes with an abundance of wildlife, the people of Minto are very politically active in fish and game management. Minto people were also very active in the beginning stages of the land claims movement. Peter John was an important figure in this movement. A more recent political issue involving Minto people was a landmark court decision several years ago which legally established that a memorial potlatch is a religious activity and as such is grounds for permitting Athabaskan people to hunt game out of season. Currently, there is an issue facing the people of Minto, which has to do with the use of rivers in the Minto Area. Seven rivers enter Minto Flats. There is mining activity on all of these rivers and miners have been dumping so much silt into the rivers that the lakes have begun to fill and the fish have begun to die. There is now a bill before the legislature, which could declare the Tolovana River an “industrial river.” This precedent-setting measure would allow silt to be dumped in the river without EPA restrictions.
Minto is well known for its talented singers and skillful dance group. The Minto dancers have won the Eskimo-Indian Olympics dance contest for several years running. The singers’ repertoire includes traditional songs and contemporary songs with Native language lyrics.
Well-known and respected elders of Minto include: Peter John, Evelyn Alexander, Anna Frank, and Matthew Titus.
YKSD Biography Series: Peter John, Al Wright