Yves Brower

Interviews

2009

Yves Brower, a resident of Barrow (the town now goes by its native name, Utqiaġvik), shares his background and connection to the Arctic region. Born in California, Yves moved to Massachusetts and didn’t return to Barrow until he was 13. It was during a stay with his uncle and a hunting expedition that he fell in love with the area and knew he would eventually move back. After finishing high school and spending three years in college, Yves made his permanent move to Barrow in 1995. Coming from a large family with relatives in every village of the North Slope, Yves takes pride in his heritage, with his father and uncle being avid hunters and whalers. He is part of his Uncle Eugene Brower’s whaling crew, which involves extensive preparations such as breaking trails through the ice, making skin boats, sleds, and gathering supplies. Yves explains that whaling is not only a significant cultural tradition but also a practical way to secure food in a region where expenses are high. Despite the hard work involved, Yves finds joy in hunting and cherishes the time spent with his family members, passing on his knowledge and love for hunting to his son. He appreciates the beauty of the Arctic landscape, its vastness, and the sense of exploration it offers.

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Yves Brower shares his experiences and preparations for a winter hunting trip. He discusses packing gear, setting up camp, hunting successes, traditional foods like muktuk, and the importance of self-sufficiency in his community. He also reflects on the influence of his grandfather, a reindeer herder.

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Yves Brower describes the uniqueness and beauty of the Arctic during winter. He expresses admiration for the pristine white landscape, the crunching sound of snow, and the incredible friendliness of the people in the close-knit community of Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Yves shares his strong attachment to the Arctic, the longing he feels when away, and his reluctance to live elsewhere. He reflects on his father’s experience being sent to school in Sitka, the loss of his grandmother, and his own return to the Arctic. Yves discusses the different hunting seasons throughout the year, including whaling, caribou hunting, fishing, and trapping, highlighting the constant activity and engagement with nature in his life. He contrasts this with the perceived boredom of newcomers who spend their winters indoors, emphasizing his own full schedule and lack of time for television.

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2022

Yves Brower, Chief of Operations at Barrow Utilities And Electric Cooperative, oversees water distribution, wastewater collections, and wastewater treatment. In his job, he witnesses significant changes in the climate. Over the years, Yves has observed the worsening conditions for utilities due to factors such as thawing ground, increased precipitation, and changing permafrost. These changes have led to challenges in maintaining water and sewer systems. The utility company employs different methods like utilidors (underground tunnels) and direct burial pipes, but the shifting permafrost has caused houses to move and pipes to break, resulting in frequent repairs and water main breaks. Yves, although not formally trained as an engineer, has learned everything on the job and through interactions with knowledgeable individuals, including local elders, scientists, and fellow employees. He emphasizes the importance of incorporating local knowledge into scientific studies and appreciates the open-mindedness of local residents and scientists like Geoff Carroll and Dr. Craig George. Yves also shares a story about a seal-catching technique devised by a local hunter that baffled the scientists studying seals.

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Prior to this job as chief of operations at Barrow Utilities and Electric, Yves Brower had various offshore and dredging jobs while engaging in arts and crafts and hunting to support his family. Though his hunting activities have been reduced since obtaining a permanent job, he still manages to get out quite a bit. Yves loves living in the Utqiaġvik area, remarking on the beauty of the land and the changing seasons, particularly the mesmerizing winter Northern Lights. Yves acknowledges that hunting has faced challenges due to the warming climate, with less stable ice for hunting seals and whales. There is a new need for increased caution during hunting expeditions. He notes changes in animal behavior, such as caribou getting skinnier and the migration of lynx farther north.

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Yves Brower reflects on the changing rainfall patterns in Barrow, Alaska, now called Utqiaġvik, and its impact on the local environment. Yves grew up in Massachusetts but moved to Utqiaġvik in 1995. He describes how precipitation has increased over the years, with heavier rainstorms replacing the light misty rain and foggy conditions of the past. Yves notes that these changes have affected the wastewater treatment plant, causing significant increases in water flow. He mentions the rise in snowfall and subsequent snowmelt during the spring, resulting in marshier tundra and more water on the landscape. Despite these transformations, Yves, like the indigenous Iñupiaq community, maintains a healthy perspective of adaptation. He emphasizes the need to embrace change and find new ways of living harmoniously with nature. Yves reminisces about the traditional whale hunting practices and expresses a sense of loss as the culture evolves.

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Yves Brower, a water management professional in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, had a successful spring whale hunt. The community caught 16-17 small whales and enjoyed abundant muktuk (whale blubber) and festive celebrations. Yves reflects on the friendly and family-oriented atmosphere in Utqiaġvik, where neighbors treat each other like relatives. While he loves his job, Yves contemplates a potential career change to the wildlife department.

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