The 1970s: From Subsistence to Cash Economy (Eugene Brower)

Video Shot in: 2009

Eugene Brower, Iñupiaq elder from Utqiaġvik, Alaska, discusses the challenging transition from a subsistence lifestyle to a cash-based economy. He explains that while the availability of cash brought convenience and access to necessary products like groceries, ammunition, and rifles, it also introduced financial burdens with the high cost of supplies for hunting such as the casings, fuses, black powder, and plastic caps. Eugene acknowledges that the rate of return on their investments is uncertain, but it is necessary to continue spending significant amounts, ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per season, in order to continue the traditions of the Iñupiat. Maintaining snow machines alone requires a substantial financial commitment, with annual costs reaching approximately $1,000. Eugene expresses his concerns about replacing outdated snow machines, highlighting that some of his equipment dates back to the 1980s with 15,000 miles of use. These remarks shed light on the financial pressures faced by individuals transitioning from traditional subsistence practices to a cash economy in the context of hunting and living in the Arctic region.