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Native Pathways to Education
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EDUCATION AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN ALASKA
The Collected Essays of Patrick J. Dubbs


Another Development in Rural Alaska

© Patrick J. Dubbs

In 1975, the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation presented a report to the Seventh Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly which focused on a perceived crisis principally, but not exclusively, in Third World national development and international cooperation. This report concluded, among other things, that:

The crisis of development lies in the poverty of the masses of the Third World, as well as that of others, whose needs, even the most basic–food, habitat, health, education–are not met; it lies, in a large part of the world, in the alienation, whether in misery or in affluence, of the masses, deprived of the means to understand and master their social and political environment; it lies in the growing feelings of frustration that are disturbing the industrialized societies.

(Dag Hammarskjold Foundation 1975:5)

It suggests that the solution to this crisis is not a perpetuation of the status quo or orthodox development strategies characteristic of and advocated by the industrialized world, but that there needs to be a "redefining [of] the content and direction of development (Dag Hammarskjold Foundation 1975:6)." And, the Foundation offered the concept of "Another Development" as the core around which this redefinition and redirection could revolve.

In this paper, I suggest that a similar analysis of Alaska's contemporary indigenous communities located off the road, rail and ferry system, hereafter referred to as rural Alaska, would result in a similar conclusion about the efficacy of orthodox approaches to development in Alaska. Secondly, I attempt to sketch out the concept of "Another Development". And, thirdly, I attempt to describe how such a strategy might be employed by small rural Alaska communities in today's world.

Development in Village Alaska

At the outset, it is important to realize that the developmental situation in village Alaska today is not simply a post-1959 statehood and/or post-1971 ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) phenomenon. Rather, it represents the culmination of a long standing and deep rooted pattern of colonial development commencing in the late 1700's and early 1800's with Russian activities along the Pacific and southern Bering Sea rims and continuing through today with the activities of the State of Alaska, the U.S. Federal Government and a variety of omnibus corporations in most corners of Alaska. To be sure, statehood and ANCSA have had profound influences on village Alaska but these influences are part of a larger picture.

In general, orthodox development, at least as it is used here, is imposed or colonial development. That is, it is initiated by, implemented under the direction of, and intended to benefit external entities. In a convoluted way, it is not intended to be "local development" at all but is intended to develop or further develop external areas. The nature and needs of indigenous or tribal local institutions and communities, if they are considered at all, are viewed as obstacles to this predesigned developmental path and consequently, they must be either removed or changed to be supportive of the path.

The specific path followed by orthodox colonial development seems mostly to be shaped by two related core considerations–the production needs of the larger external system, and the ability to maximize returns to external capital, labor, or managerial investments in the local context while fulfilling these external needs. Given the voracious appetite of the colonizing countries' industrial machines and their complementary consumer market orientations, it is not too surprising that most examples of orthodox colonial development are, at least initially, natural resource oriented. Certainly, colonial invasions of the North were dictated by the industrial states' desire for northern natural resources and, for the most part, these desires have remained unabated up to today. The North or any similar colonial target was not and is not viewed as a unique homeland, but is viewed simply as yet another place from which to extract and export resources.

Local development or development in the colony itself, a second pattern of development, under these circumstances obviously revolves around and is dependent upon the natural resource development process in the first pattern. "Trickle-down" outcomes such as economic rents for the resources, forward and backward infrastructure linkages to resource activities, employment opportunities within the natural resource complex, increases in population and local wealth leading to economic diversification, etc. are viewed individually and collectively as positive development of the local region. Indeed, these presumed benefits become the core of the local orthodox developer's world view which tends to define development in the tradition of western capitalism as "economic growth" through private sector activities. /1/ When one looks at development in the North and other sparsely populated but resource rich remote areas from the perspective of the external and local " private sector developers", resource export induced-development seems not only logical in economic terms but necessary if there is ever to be local level development or economic growth. Small populations, remoteness from markets and supply centers, high transportation costs, high costs of living and wages, etc. all seem to mitigate against the other major private sector strategy–industrial manufacturing induced development.

While the natural resource extraction/exportation development strategy has proven highly profitable over time for the external developers, it also has led to a degree of traditional "economic growth" or local development in Alaska's major urban areas, especially those within central Alaska. This second model of development, local growth of populated urban areas through exports of rural resources, conforms very closely to orthodox capitalistic development models which emphasize top-down, large scale, export oriented projects which theoretically will create trickle-down benefits, especially cash infusions, leading to local level development. This "growth through exports" model is most certainly the dominant model in Alaska today even though there does not appear to be a coherent statewide strategy for its implementation. /2/

Although the two previously discussed models, in my opinion, never were primarily intended to be development models for rural communities in the sense of purposefully attempting to create a particular rural configuration or outcome, they have had a profound affect on rural indigenous or Native institutions and societies. These historical changes have been commented upon by many analysts and need not be repeated in depth here. /3/ Essentially, they have resulted from the overlay of the "modern" or western capitalistic market system, including its various institutions, upon a "traditional" or non-western subsistence system. The resultant historical montage features permanent settlements or villages centralized around a locus of power embodied in western institutions like the school, church and store. The livelihoods of village residents became dependent upon access to cash and natural resources in a mixed economy, and their lives were increasingly drawn into and dependent upon external social, cultural, political, economic and technological systems. While there are numerous ways to describe or conceptualize this emergent historical pattern, I find it most fruitful to describe it as a Fourth World, or a world fundamentally different from the typical First, Second and Third "worlds" discussed in most development literature./4/ This Fourth World is created by a set of historical relationships between two distinct populations–an invading and/or settled colonizing industrial state population and a resident indigenous or tribal population still occupying its traditional land base. While these relationships are initiated within a traditional colonization framework, they are maintained by an internal colonization dynamic through which the indigenous population loses its " . . . sovereignty and . . . [becomes] subordinate to the wider society and the state over which they do not exercise any control (Stavenhagen: 4)." It is a situation in which dependence and dominance characterize interrelationships or exchanges between the rural tribal population and the larger external system.

Given this brief, general historical backdrop, one finds that the situation today throughout village Alaska is not all that different from the past, i.e, much of what is going on in rural Alaska is conditioned by natural resource export development models geared to the needs of external entities outside the State or urban entities within the state. The needs and desires of local indigenous communities, at best, are of secondary concern within the export model. Indeed, one could make a fairly convincing argument that the basic situation in rural Alaska today simply is an enhancement and not a departure from past trends. Specifically, population centralization in the location of "western" institutions, including the recently created ANCSA regional and village for-profit corporations, has intensified. For example, in 1970 there were only 16 communities outside of the major population boroughs with a population greater than 500; by 1980, there was more than a hundred percent increase in such communities [33] (calculated from data presented by Kruse and Foster 1986: 15-19). The commercialization of the economy is such that dependence on access to cash has become extremely critical for the livelihood of most villagers even though natural resource dependence is still the underlying economic base for most communities, and entanglements with external cultural technologies, institutions and value systems have become much more pervasive and, in some cases, indispensable.

There are, however, some significant differences in today's rural Alaska and they seem to center around the "developmental role" increasingly played by external government in the rural areas, particularly the state government, and the "developmental potential", real or imagined, of the ANCSA corporate structure, particularly the for-profit regional corporations.

With the advent of statehood and the subsequent oil generated fluorescence of state government, governmental activities in rural areas have taken on the "trickle-down" developmental cast similar to that attributed to natural resource development. Government spending has created numerous direct governmental jobs in rural areas as well as private sector jobs through activities funded by governmental funds, particularly general infrastructure construction. Additionally, government transfer programs have provided individuals both with direct monetary payments as well as delivered services. In the main rural regional centers like Bethel, Nome and Kotzebue, local, State and Federal government is a significant, if not the most significant, employer and in this regional center context, government spending, indeed, has seemed to have had some spin-off developmental effects leading to private sector economic diversification. In the outlying smaller communities, the import of government expenditures (direct employment, indirect employment in government funded projects and transfer payments) is even greater as it is the major source of cash. For example, Knapp's recent analysis (1987) indicates that in the Wade-Hampton census district near Bethel, the poorest census district in the state, government employment provides 72% of all wages.

Yet, this form of development is obviously a tenuous one dependent upon adequate governmental revenues to support its continuation. With the oil glut and subsequent decline in state revenues, it is becoming increasingly and painfully obvious to many rural communities that their economic future is still dependent upon uncontrollable external vagaries and that they are still in a subordinate relationships to the external system. Unfortunately, as state government spending diminishes in rural areas, local communities suffer not only from the loss of services from discontinued or reduced programs and the loss of jobs and the income associated with those jobs, they still have to maintain the physical infrastructure constructed with and previously supported by government funds and/or user fees. Faced with a declining ability of families to pay for these services due to shortages of cash and small tax bases, shrinking municipal budgets are reeling under these physical facility obligations. In attempting to assess the magnitude of this problem, the State Department of Regional and Community Affairs conducted a preliminary survey of 128 small communities in October of 1987 (DCRA 1987). While the preliminary report of this data is difficult to analyze, it is clear that most communities had decreased budgets as well as increased difficulties in getting families to pay for municipal services. A sizable percentage, up to possibly a third, was or shortly would be experiencing serious financial difficulties to the point where they might not be able to fulfill such basic functions as withholding taxes, making workman's compensation payments, etc.. In addition to service and employment cutbacks, the most common response to these budget deficits was to increase user fees even though the inability to collect for these services was already contributing to the deficit. Most importantly, there has been a decided trend of out-migration from the small communities into Alaska's regional and urban centers. Even with the State's recently announced very modest Rural Community Recovery Package, consisting of loans from a $600,000 fund to communities who agree to give the State financial oversight and training responsibilities (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 12-29-87), the public sector's "developmental role" in rural Alaska is going to be significantly reduced, at least for the immediate future.

The other significant difference in the development scene is the profit and non-profit corporate infrastructure created by the passage of ANCSA in 1971. The ANCSA complex has been commented upon by numerous people but, by far, the most well known and controversial comments have come from the recently completed investigation of the Alaska Native Review Commission or, as it is more commonly known, the Berger Report (Berger 1985). Perhaps because it is one of the few studies to genuinely incorporate the views of village residents, perhaps because there is a general, almost universal, unease when it comes thinking about the actual implications of ANCSA for indigenous communities, or perhaps because it is critical of a lot of the orthodox "economic growth" development hopes surrounding ANCSA, the Berger Report has become the baseline from which to talk about development in rural Alaska (e.g., see Young 1987). While covering of a myriad of historical and contemporary issues, Berger is clearly concerned with indigenous cultures at risk in the larger and surrounding western industrial context primarily because their cultural and economic foundation, their land-base, is at jeopardy. Given such general structural weaknesses in village corporations as undercapitalization, lack of a profitable local resource base, a shortage of trained management, and a costly and time consuming reporting system as well as occasional simple mismanagement and/or untimely investments, village corporations in most communities, particularly the smaller communities, have not proven to be the engines of orthodox development that they were intended to be (see Berger 1985, Dubbs 1986, et. al.). Land comprises the major corporate asset of most of these village corporations and in bankruptcy or takeover situations, these lands are at risk. With the recent downturn in the general Alaskan economy and the precipitous decline in the stock market, one would expect more village corporations to experience serious land- threatening economic difficulties in the immediate future. Legislation to rectify some of the inherent difficulties in ANCSA , the so-called 1991 provisions, recently passed the U.S. Congress and while it does not allow for the communal land saving provisions of the Berger Report, it is a step forward toward stabilizing ANCSA, particularly the large regional for-profit corporations. Whether it will result in these corporations taking a more active role in the development of their rural components, remains uncertain. For the most part (NANA being a notable exception), the regional ANCSA corporations have simply replicated the investment strategies of other larger western capitalistic corporations and/or the traditional resource extraction–exportation development strategy of the external colonizers under the assumption that benefits will trickle-down to their shareholders in the form of increased dividends due to profitable investments and/or wages from associated employment activities. These investment and resource activities too are tied into and dependent upon external systems and while they might prove profitable in the short-term and could have an impact on the cash flow in local communities, they probably are not a sustainable foundation for local development in rural areas. As Berger indicates:

The Native corporations are trickle-down mechanisms, but the trickle will never be greater than it is now because villagers are not in a position to make claims on the stream of income resulting from economic activity. The stream may have been increased by ANCSA, but very few of the villagers are able to get closer to it (1985:46)

The government/ANCSA complex seem to form what might be a third model of development found in rural Alaska–the development of regional centers intended to provide a locus for external institutions to extend their webs of dependence and dominance to the surrounding small, rural communities. The corollary is that local community development flows from and is dependent upon funds and services from the regional center and its external sources of funds. The rapid growth in the number of these centers already has been commented upon and they seem to display indicators of secondary or trickle-down growth much like their urban counterparts, albeit due to different causes and at a much reduced scale. This form of "top-down" rural development accounts for much of the growth that has occurring in the small communities in the regional center hinterlands. For the most part, this "growth" is restricted to wages and basic municipal infrastructure services such as water, sanitation, health clinics, roads, fire and police protection, etc. This model and its consequent pattern of development is extremely dependent upon outside financial resources and control procedures determining what these financial resources can and cannot be used for and thus, what can and cannot be "developed." It is, in reality, closely linked to the previous two export-models of development.

In sum, it appears that development in Alaska's small rural communities by both the private and public sectors has been tangential to the development of Alaska's rural resources and at best, haphazard. In fact, one could argue that there never has been a true rural development strategy in Alaska. At best (and one might argue that what has really happened in rural Alaska has been the creation of underdevelopment), it clearly has been exploitative development driven by external entities and geared to meeting or enhancing external objectives. It has been development which virtually ignores the subsistence or traditional sector and often, the needs and desires of local communities. Such a development pattern is very unpredictable, unreliable and very much subject to externally-induced "boom-bust" cycles.

While this historical path is not without contributions in local communities, particularly infrastructure facilities that many communities seem to want, there is little to suggest that there is any sustained development foundation in rural Alaska outside of traditional subsistence pursuits for consumption and cash exchanges. There is, however, a lot to suggest that something is quite "wrong" with the current situation and that it needs to be changed. In spite of massive expenditures, rural incomes consistently remain considerably lower than urban incomes, placing rural residents in a distinctly disadvantageous position in the surrounding commercial economy, especially one characterized by high transportation costs (e.g., see Kruse 1984). The depressing litany of social pathologies involving alcohol, drugs, violence, accidents and death is found in almost any rural community. The current severity of these social maladies has been poignantly and disturbingly conveyed to the entire state in an Anchorage Daily News ten part series aptly entitled "A People in Peril" (Anchorage Daily News, January 1988). While this pathological complex is little understood in terms of cause and effect, there certainly is suggestive evidence to link it to individuals trying to cope with developmentally-induced changes in rural Alaska (e.g., see Palainkas 1987, Travis 1984, and Young 1987). It appears that pursuing an "Another Development" strategy in rural Alaska would be advantageous, especially given the probable decline in state and federal revenues available to rural regions and the finiteness and fragility of natural resource export development, as well as from the point of view of trying to create a more sustainable developmental path for rural communities as well as reducing the social malaise in these communities. This need for a change even seems to have been recently recognized by the State of Alaska in that the Governor, addressing the state of the rural Alaskan economy, has stated that "We have learned that economic development initiated by outside communities or by a distant government has proven unlikely to be a long-term success or improve the lives of the poor (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner October 18, 1987: E-9)."

The Concept of "Another Development"

The concept of "Another Development" is a nebulous one in that it has come to mean any alternative to the type of development intended by orthodox western capitalism or orthodox centralized socialism. In its fundamental form, as conceptualized by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation (1975),

Development is a whole. Its ecological, cultural, social, economic, institutional and political dimensions can only be understood in their systematic interrelationships, and action in its service must be integrated. . . . the three pillars, so to speak, of Another Development [are–it is] 1. Geared to the satisfaction of needs, beginning with the eradication of poverty. 2. Endogenous and self-reliant, that is, relying on the strength of the societies which undertake it. 3. In harmony with the environment. . . . Another Development requires structural transformations (Dag Hammarskjold Foundation 1975:28).

Another Development, in many ways, is a much less complex idea than conventional development as it clearly starts with a focus or definition of development that is concerned with the satisfaction of basic physical and often, psychocultural needs of individuals such as a sense of security, mastery, control, dignity, etc. It is "development as if people mattered," or, to put it more directly, " . . . men and women, human lives, have become the subjects for both development goals and strategies (Kindervatter: 39)." It is " . . . the unfolding of people's individual and social imagination in defining goals, inventing means and ways to approach them, and learning to identify and satisfy socially legitimate needs (Third System Project: 72)." "Another Development" does not deny the import of traditional development goals such as economic growth, infrastructure expansion, etc., it simply views these as one of many possible means to attain need satisfaction as opposed to being the exclusive subject or goal of development.

Its second dimension, endogenousness and self-reliance, clearly emphasizes an inward as opposed to outer oriented form of development. Such development

 . . . relies on what a human group has: its natural environment, its cultural heritage, the creativity of the men and women who constitute it, becoming richer through exchange between them and with other groups. It entails the autonomous definition of development styles and of life styles (Dag Hammarskjold Foundation:34).

Utilization of local resources in locally decided ways for locally determined ends becomes the path to self-reliant and sustainable development. Again, "Another Development" does not deny the fact that there may be a need for exchange linkages with other systems, it simply does not accept, a priori,

that you must have such linkages. Should such linkages be required, it does suggest that they be initiated and controlled by local communities as much as possible.

By stressing harmony with the environment, "Another Development" goes beyond the mere physical environment to embrace the total physiosocial environment. Questions of compatibility, appropriateness, resource utilization, exhaustion and renewability and the like are part and parcel of fitting activities into the local environment rather than changing the environment to fit into activities as is so often the case under other forms of development.

In sum, "Another Development" becomes " . . . not a cluster of benefits 'given' to people in need, but rather a process by which a populace acquires a greater mastery over its own destiny (Goulet: 155)". It occurs " . . . when people and their communities–whatever the space and time-span of their efforts–act as subjects and are not acted upon as objects; assert their autonomy, self-reliance and self-confidence; when they set out and carry out projects. To develop is to be, or to become. Not to have. (Third System Project: 72)." It is obvious that this type of development usually engenders structural transformations in existing systems.

"Another Development" in Rural Alaska

Before outlining what an "Another Development" strategy might mean for rural Alaska and how it might be applied, I am making a few assumptions which should be articulated, for they indubitably have shaped the direction of this argument. In 1980, the State of Alaska created a short-lived Rural Development Council which was charged with developing State policy for rural Alaska in the sense of providing answers to such questions as "Should rural communities continue to exist even if there is no viable economic base other than state support?" or "How far should the State go toward guaranteeing the survival of rural Alaska?" (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 11/20/80:2). In this paper, I am assuming, first and foremost, that Alaska's small rural communities, with their distinctive life style, are worth preserving. These communities are the remaining land-based locus of long standing and rich indigenous cultural traditions which, if lost, would be irreplaceable. These communities also present a preferred alternative life style for many Alaskans which adds a richness to all our lives whether we actually reside there or not. Secondly, individuals have inhabited these general land areas continuously for thousands of years in the face of incalculable hardships and uncertainties, and thus, I assume that these communities can be preserved amidst today's uncertainties. Thirdly, and closely connected to the other assumptions, is the assumption that the future of the world rests upon populations having access to a variety of viable adaptive forms, including that of Native Alaska subsistence. The fourth and final major assumption is that, however preferable or desirable it might seem, a return to the "pure", isolated subsistence lifestyle is not a realistic alternative for most, if not all, rural Alaska communities. Consequently, any local development strategy must take into consideration exchanges with the larger systems.

While the specific integrated "Another Development" concept, at least as far as I know, has not been advocated for rural Alaska or the indigenous North, there have been numerous and consistent calls for a reconsideration and redirection of the current developmental path from both researchers, Alaska Native leaders and, most importantly, community members. In many ways, these calls and subsequent actions such as the formation of the Alaska Native Review Commission, the Yupiit Nation, Inupiat Ilitqusiat, the Alaska Resource Commodities Trading and Investment Corporation, and the Alaska Native Coalition all embody components of a specific "Another Development" strategy for rural Alaska.

Given the total contextual heterogeneity of Alaska, it is assumed that there should be a heterogeneous approach to its development. In this paper, the "Another Development" strategy is directed at Alaska's small, generally widely dispersed rural communities with less than 500 people. There are roughly 223 rural communities in Alaska and 84% of these had fewer than 500 people in 1980 (Kruse and Foster: 8). These small rural places, however, only constituted about one-half of the rural population and ten percent of the total state population (calculated from Kruse and Foster).

Even though this is a fairly well defined and homogeneous grouping, "Another Development" advocates would argue that each community ultimately would need to evolve its own strategy based on local contextual factors as opposed to there being any a priori universal strategy equally applicable to all rural communities. The ANCSA strategy of establishing an identical corporate structure for all communities without regard to context, population and other scalar considerations would be rejected in this approach.

Subsistence-Centered System

An "Another Development" strategy for rural Alaska, like elsewhere, must start with the satisfaction of basic physical and psychocultural needs of the rural population. In Alaska, this demands that subsistence be given strategic primacy. The totality of the subsistence system has sustained generations of Alaska Natives in the rural homelands for thousands of years and it is capable of doing so today and tomorrow. This sustenance is inextricably both physical and psychocultural, and it provides, in my opinion, the single most important anchor in the lives of rural residents. Yet, this cornerstone of rural existence is treated, more often than not, as an obstacle to development or as something that has to be tolerated but not seriously considered. The subsistence provider, for example, is seldom extolled in rural school rooms and when he or she is, it is more in terms of a historical curiosity than as a viable role in today's world. This general devaluation of subsistence obviously is transmitted to the Native youth who then are caught in the bind of seeing the activities of the parental generation devalued and thus not worth pursuing, but, simultaneously, they are not being provided with the requisite skills, knowledge and/or opportunity to adequately pursue the "valued alternative" of wage employment in the commercial economy.

By advocating the reestablishment or strengthening of a subsistence-centered system, I am not advocating a development based on nostalgia (Stenbaek 1987), fantasy (Eaton 1987), or dangerous singlemindedness (Jull 1985). A subsistence-centered system today is not and cannot be the isolated, traditional system of the past if, for no other reason, than the capitalization of subsistence pursuits (Dryzek and Young 1985). Yet, it can be a system based upon traditional cultural knowledge and values which is harmoniously fitted into established homelands and which meets many of the basic human needs of its practitioners. Among other things, such a system would, as it always has since contact with the industrial state and in contrast to orthodox export models advocated by that state,

  1. be based upon a locally generated knowledge base rather than an imported knowledge base,
  2. emphasize renewable resource as opposed to nonrenewable resource utilization,
  3. consist of a year round cycle of different activities rather than a single seasonal or year round pursuit of one activity, and
  4. be geared toward local consumption as well as extra-local production ends.

The "subsistence question" is a complex one and cannot be fully developed in this paper./5/ However, for a sustainable subsistence-centered system to exist, it seems that events like the following must occur:

  1. A subsistence-centered existence must not be considered as a "second class" pursuit followed by those who cannot make it in the "world of work". The unique special skills, complex empirical knowledge of local environments, mutual respect, sharing, resourcefulness, and "understanding that is both conscious and mystical of the intricate interrelationships that link humans, animals, and the environment" involved in subsistence must be recognized as highly valued traits to acquire and retain (Berger 1985:51). These traits should be viewed as at least on par with western knowledge and skills conveyed in the formal school system and, with some creativity, they could easily provide the foundation for the way schooling is conducted.
  2. Rural indigenous individuals will need unassailable access to renewable subsistence resources in their traditional use areas. These use areas cut across ANCSA, State and Federal lands and both consumption and extra-local production subsistence rights must be guaranteed. While there appears to be a complex State process now for determining priority consumptive subsistence rights when there are severe resource limitations, it leads to too many interpretative judgments based on traditional usage, consumption versus production, etc. A subsistence-centered system cannot be founded on an arbitrary and continually negotiated process, especially one highly responsive to the increasingly strident recreational demands of non-resident hunters and fishermen who constitute Alaska's numerical majority. It requires a solid foundation that will endure over time. For example, exclusive "subsistence sanctuaries", accessible only to local residents and members of the scientific community, could be jointly established throughout much of rural Alaska by ANCSA corporations, the State Government and the Federal Government.
  3. Rural indigenous individuals must be involved in the day-to-day administration and overall policy management of all rural land and water resources. This is not only logical from a scientific management point of view given the vast amount of local knowledge about these resources, it is clear that "Any society which has a profound and continuing dependence on a set of resources for its future as well as present well being, is logically bound to have a strong self-interest in managing those resources in the best way possible (Freeman 1986:35)." There are numerous issues involved in local management and many ways this can be accomplished (see Usher 1986) but, whatever management system is evolved, it must be as localized as possible both in terms of its authority and participants, and it must allow for the local veto of projects which could threaten the subsistence base. If local communities are to attain a sense of mastery over their existence, it is absolutely critical that they have real control over their local environment. Membership on advisory panels or "representative" membership on statewide bodies simply is not sufficient.
  4. If a subsistence-centered system is to have a chance, especially in the contemporary mixed economy, State and Federal government benefit programs will have to respond to its uniqueness in a supportive way. As Wolfe (1987:4) states:
    . . . qualifying rules for benefit programs should not require applicants to give up necessary subsistence equipment such as snow-machines, boats, motors, nets, and rifles or limited-entry fishing permits. Otherwise, the program will slow down subsistence activities which are necessary for rural communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency and a high quality of life. In order to supplement the mixed subsistence-cash economy, benefit programs need to arrange rules that exclude subsistence equipment and fishing permits in determining financial resources.

In the framework of "Another Development", a subsistence-centered system, such as the one just described, clearly conforms to the "Another Development" core pillars of need orientation, self-reliance and control, and total environmental harmony. Additionally, in giving primacy to a subsistence-centered system, society essentially would be giving primacy to the long term survival of Alaska's indigenous peoples. As some residents of Alaska's North Slope Borough have said:

When the development is gone, the tax bases are gone, and the jobs are gone, we are determined that our descendants will survive, just as our ancestors ensured our continuity. This survival depends on the survival and maintenance of our Arctic wildlife and the minimal disturbance of the Arctic environment and wildlife habitats. If we as a culture are not to become a seriously endangered species, Inuit subsistence traditions must continue and be allowed to survive (Brower and Stotts: 325).

The Cash Component of A Subsistence-Centered System

In today's world, a subsistence-centered "Another Development" strategy requires a cash component. In the past three or four years, there has been a surprising amount of attention paid to the status of rural northern mixed economies (for example, Dryzek and Young 1985, Eaton 1987, Marshall 1987, Quigley and McBride 1987, Robinson and Ghostkeeper 1987, Ross and Usher 1986, Sinclair 1985, Weeden 1985, and Young 1987). In many ways, these efforts all have concentrated on alternative ways of focusing and/or organizing these economies and the following discussion of the "cash component" draws liberally from these approaches. Oran Young's (1987) paper is particularly useful in terms of providing an excellent overview of the possibilities and constraints facing rural Alaskan mixed economies.

In the main, whenever development is mentioned in regard to rural communities, the first response is inevitably one like "Employment is the single most critical need in smaller communities and will be the prerequisite criteria for community support of a business investment (Eaton:5)," or "This village has decided that rural development means more jobs for its residents (Marshall:7)." This often results in a lot of time, money and effort being spent on devising employment training or business opportunity programs for local and/or extra-local jobs, usually with very limited success. Using an "Another Development" framework, one might recast this as the need by individuals and communities for a means to obtain cash to meet necessary basic human needs, particularly to carry out a subsistence-centered strategy, and thereby, broaden the focus of activity to two interrelated areas–cash extension and cash creation.

Cash Extension:

The most obvious starting point in a cash oriented strategy is cash extension or increasing the local circulation and/or economic efficacy of the existing cash supply. Given the anticipated declines in cash inputs into small communities, any extension in the local use of these inputs would be beneficial. The following are some of the more obvious ways in which cash can be "extended" in many small rural communities:

  1. Direct Import Substitution: Most cash flowing into communities today flows out for a variety of goods. If some of these funds can be captured locally, there would be a multiplier increase in the local circulation of cash which could broaden the local distribution of cash. Unfortunately, there are severe limitations in terms of what can be produced and profitably marketed locally because of small market size, limited access to investment capital, technological requirements, etc. It seems that most direct import substitutions would be in the areas of food, clothing, shelter and heating fuel. These areas are of primary importance in rural areas and local resources and skills can easily be applied to their production. Furthermore, this type of production can be directly and locally controlled.
  2. Indirect Import Substitution: The highest paid jobs in most rural Alaskan communities are usually professional jobs, especially teaching and administrative jobs. But, rural communities seldom capture much of the cash associated with these positions. The rural Alaskan situation, in my opinion, very much parallels a situation described by Quigley and McBride in Canada's Northwest Territories:
     . . . we have observed (but not been able to quantify) that local expenditures by non-native professionals in the community tend to be relatively small compared to the size of their cash incomes, the tendency being for these people to order in bulk from wholesalers outside the community or purchase food and goods while on trips to southern Canada, as well as to invest in southern assets such as real estate (210).
    While it might be possible for rural communities to become competitive with distant wholesalers for some food stuffs and thereby capture some of the cash paid to professionals, most of these cash assets simply will not remain in the community because the professionals themselves do not plan to remain. The obvious solution, which also has implications for self-reliance and local control, would be to have local professionals (see Dubbs 1984). There is no reason why local individuals cannot be trained to occupy all the professional positions in their communities and these individuals would also form a local core group for helping the community equitably deal with external structures and systems.
  3. Altering Consumption Patterns: Reductions in the type and volume of extra-local discretionary consumption would also provide more cash to meet basic needs and thereby improve the local quality of life. One extra-local area that seems to capture a significant portion of the disposable income in many communities and which can be greatly reduced is expenditures for alcohol and drugs. Channeling this money back into families and local enterprises would have a profound affect on both the economic and social fabric of most rural communities.
  4. Repair rather than Replacement: To the extent that the life of technological items and structures can be efficiently extended by local repairs rather than being replaced by new items, more money will remain in circulation in the community. While most of these repairs could be done by individual owners, there is a possibility that one or more small, repair oriented enterprises could be developed, e.g., electronic items. Converting school shops to community shops would be another way to facilitate local repairs.
  5. Reduction in Facility Operating Costs: Any savings in the operation of private and public structures would lessen the pressure on family and community budgets. Through better and more appropriate designs (Barnhardt and Dubbs 1981), better construction techniques and simple usage reductions, a considerable amount of cash could be saved in terms of lower electricity and fossil fuel costs.

Cash Creation:

Even if these cash extension strategies were successful, the simple fact remains that most communities still would not have an adequate supply of cash to meet all its basic human needs. Certainly, there would be significant improvement but, if a sustainable cash component is to exist, the existing supply of cash must be expanded, ideally through the creation of new wealth. As Eaton (1987:4) states:

"Creating new wealth is more than washing each others shirts; it involves expanding the opportunity to produce or sell. It involves adding value. It involves increasing the size of the economic pie, not simply dividing the pie into even smaller portions. For example, it seems to me that some projects simply reallocate existing business within a region rather than create new growth."

Most of the work dealing with rural northern mixed economies seems to emphasize growth related, cash creating activities rather than cash extension activities, probably because of the difficulties posed by the seemingly acute shortage of local cash generating possibilities. They also all tend to concentrate on increasing "export" activities as opposed to increasing transfer payments, probably because the former is more consistent with the western capitalistic development tradition and the latter would be politically controversial. Whichever cash creation strategy is emphasized, it is important to realize that "cash creation" directly involves the community in a dependent relationship with outside entities, and communities will need to decide to what extent they wish to trade-off self-reliance for increases in cash inputs. It seems a multifaceted cash creation strategy would be the best as it would reduce the amount of dependence in any one sector (Dryzek and Young 1985, The NFE Exchange 1979).

Before discussing specific cash creating strategies, the type, nature and financing of the involved institutions needs to be briefly commented upon. Arguments about which should be the preferred type of institution–private firm, public agency, or communal organization–are widespread and unresolvable outside of a specific context. Eaton (1987), for example, persuasively argues the private firm perspective when he states that " . . . development [means] smaller businesses each making economic sense when taken by themselves; businesses which provide a product or service at prices which clear markets and employ local people on a sustained basis without continued public subsidy (1-2)." Browning Pipestem, addressing the 1985 Tanana Chiefs Conference, advocated a more communal type of umbrella organization when he stated that "tribes can have corporations, but corporations cannot have tribes (quoted by Kowalsky 1985:7)." A novel and somewhat middle-ground position is reflected in Robinson and Ghostkeeper's (1987) private firms which are geared to community betterment as well as entrepreneurial profit and which require some local equity support. While I am more philosophically supportive of communal structures for the small communities under question, the exact types of institutions will need to emerge out of local needs and be determined by local people. Clearly, a mix of institutional types is possible and some degree of collaboration between these institutions is probable.

There appears to be more agreement on the nature of the institution itself. Weeden (1985) and others argue for institutional elements very much in the "appropriate technology" tradition, e.g., institutions operationally sized or scaled to local resources, skills and needs; labor intensive procedures; low capital requirements; organizational structures and processes which fit into understood behavior patterns; processes which upgrade rather than destroy traditional skills and the like (see Harrison 1983 for further elaboration). While these institutions necessarily would be engaged in exchanges with external systems, they would be configured by local needs and values as opposed to imposed needs and values, and would be under local control as opposed to external control. For these types of institutions to be successful, there needs to be an increase in the capacity of local individuals and communities to manage them. This is not a problem of talent or ability; local individuals simply need access to more in-depth training/educational programs and more support to allow them to participate fully in these programs.

Adequate access to capital has been an endemic problem for individuals and small communities in rural Alaska. A variety of proposals, such as McDowell's (1987) "Development Venture Company" , the State Department of Commerce and Economic Development's "Alaska Regional Development Organizations Program" (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner November 14, 1987), and the State Department of Community and Regional Affairs' "Rural Development Assistance Program" (DCRA 1987), have appeared recently and, on the surface, programs like these seem to go a long way toward providing rural Alaskans with access to adequate capital resources. Another potential provider of individual and community entrepreneurial capital could be the ANCSA regional corporations who could move into financing shareholder endeavors.

There seems to be three main cash creating options open to small rural communities: export activities, extra-local employment, and transfer payments.

  1. Export Activities: Export activities located in the community generally will be tied to the surrounding natural resource base and, as such, will be directly tied to the subsistence-centered development strategy. While electronic assembly plants and the like have been mentioned as potential manufacturing efforts, it seems unrealistic to expect that there will be any light or cottage industry that does not involve local natural resources because of locational factors such as high transportation costs and wage structures.
    Any listing of these renewable-resource based activities includes exporting "surplus" subsistence harvests (commercial fishing, timber, furs, etc.); production of arts, crafts, clothing and implements from local materials, particularly high-end crafts (Alaska Department of Labor 1981); guiding hunters and fishermen; and tourism (see Weeden 1985 for an example of such a listing).
    These types of activities are far from guaranteed successes. Their success depends to a great extent on a sophisticated marketing effort and a reliable and reasonable external demand structure. While these activities could be done by private entrepreneurs, it seems their fundamental connectedness to local resources and skill inventories make them "natural communal" entrepreneurial endeavors which can achieve economies of scale in utilizing the limited supply of local managerial talent as well as allowing for labor intensive production procedures which could be geared to subsistence cycles rather than imposed output cycles. Profit-sharing wage structures, group decision-making, and other participatory practices could be used to reinforce the communal nature of these firms. There simply is no reason why these types of local export industries need adopt the structure and processes of external institutions if they are able to accomplish locally determined goals.
  2. Extra-Local Employment:
    1. Enclave Employment: Assuming that the historical natural resource extraction/exportation development pattern continues in rural Alaska in order to fuel the larger statewide economy and Lane's projection that "Enclave production centers engaged in energy and resource development activities will dot the rural countryside (Lane 1983:36)" is correct, employment in these centers increasingly will provide a major source of cash imports into the small communities. This cash will be of considerable help in supporting the continuation of a subsistence-centered system and, to the extent that it can be captured locally, it will deepen the community's economic base. My guess is that the regional centers rather than the small communities will be the primary recipients of any new secondary enterprise developments.
      However, employment in enclave production centers is, at best, a transitional and uncertain strategy. Due to the technological requirements of many positions in enclave production centers, the historic lack of training opportunities for rural Alaskans in these technological areas, and the exclusionary hiring practices of many firms, many residents of the smaller communities will not find steady employment in these centers. Those that do find employment may do so at the expense of maintaining a subsistence-centered lifestyle because of temporal conflicts between wage employment and subsistence activities (Young 1987:16-17). More importantly, the operation of enclave production centers is very much determined by external demand fluctuations and resource availability (see Tussing 1984). Enclave employment can be a vital short-term part of an "Another Development" strategy if it is geared toward the enhancement of its subsistence-centered base rather than increasing the web of dependency as, in the long run, the enclaves will tend to disappear while the small communities will remain.
    2. Speciality Crews: There is an impressive skill inventory in most rural Alaskan communities. If this skill inventory could be combined into focused community speciality crews, they could pursue specialized extra-local employment as a crew rather than as individuals. As a crew, they would have more opportunity to be selective and could better gear their extra-local cash employment to community subsistence cycles and cash needs. There already are some precedents for this in terms of village fire-fighting crews but they obviously have little control over when they work. Speciality crews could be organized to carry out small-scale construction projects, road building, airport construction, etc.
  3. Increased Transfer Payments:
    1. Public Sector Transfer Payments: Almost any form of transfer payments involves an unstable dependency tie, yet, public transfer payments are significant sources of cash imports into communities and cannot be ignored. Potential transfer payments like shared-economic rents from rural resources (see Young 1987:13-15) are embedded in the historical political jurisdictions of the State of Alaska and the Federal Government as well as in fundamental political philosophies. While they certainly are feasible in design, they are extremely difficult to establish. Perhaps if they were not viewed as inappropriate and inequitable "share the wealth" programs, their chances for passage would be better. If an increase in transfer payments is to be part of a cash creation strategy, it might be better to pursue something along the lines of the James Bay guaranteed income plan and formulate a "subsistence subsidy" payable to insure the continuity of a special lifestyle in today's commercial economy.
    2. Private Sector Transfer Payments: These types of transfer payments will generally involve ANCSA Regional and/or Village Corporation dividends paid to individual shareholders. To the extent that the activities of these corporations are profitable and the profits are shared with the owners, there will be a steady source of cash flowing into small communities. Thus far, the declaration of dividends has not been widespread and usually has amounted to $1.00 per share. However, this can have a significant impact, for example, in a small community of 200, the $1.00 per share dividend generates a $20,000. cash input.

Before moving on to the next component in our strategy, it is important to reiterate that in an "Another Development" framework, cash is a tool, not an end. Individuals in small communities often will have to make significant trade-offs between the benefits of cash and the benefits of autonomy.

The Governance Component of A Subsistence-Centered System

A central feature of "Another Development" is the maximization of local control over events and activities affecting the local community. As any resident or observer of rural Alaska knows, rural Alaskan communities consist of a mosaic of cross-cutting and often conflicting official governing jurisdictions such as Second Class Municipal Government chartered by the State of Alaska, Indian Reorganization Act Tribal Councils chartered by the Federal Government or pre-existing Indigenous Traditional Councils as well as several extra-local official and quasi-official entities such as Borough Governments, School Districts and Non-Profit ANCSA Corporations. Additionally, in many small communities, the Village ANCSA Corporation exerts a quasi-governmental influence. There is, as Young indicates, " . . . a compelling need to simplify the confused and redundant political system . . . (1987:36)." Unfortunately, there is not a simple solution as each organization affords certain benefits to the community but at certain opportunity costs and the end is that there is little local autonomy over anything. A solution to this problem probably will require a new form of government whose authority over a local land-base, possibility the Village ANCSA land units and the proposed subsistence sanctuaries, is recognized by and provides access to programs of both the State of Alaska and the Federal Government. This new form also would allow each community to have one governing body and one community administrative structure which would smooth and enhance the local technical governance capacity of most communities both in terms of dealing with internal and external matters.

The Cultural Component of A Subsistence-Centered System

The primacy of local cultural values is implicit throughout "Another Development" and it seems to be the area most vulnerable in traditional development schemes. In rural Alaska, traditional or indigenous cultural values have been under direct and indirect siege for several generations and this siege no doubt has contributed to many of the social difficulties rampant in rural Alaska today. Alone, a purposeful cultural resurgence, such as a language program or advocacy of a set of values, probably would not be very effective because of its unconnectedness with the total lifestyle. As part of a sustainable and controllable subsistence-centered system, however, a cultural resurgence could be extremely effective in providing a stabilizing focus for life in small communities.

The cultural devastation and loss caused by substance addiction, disempowerment, and impoverishment will be difficult to overcome but, as part of the "Another Development" process, communities will need to carefully analyze their present "cultural situation", decide where they want to be in the future, determine what is necessary to get there, and then firmly carry-out their program. Processes like the Inupiat Ilitqusiat or spirit movement in the NANA Region and the Kipnuk airport visitor search procedure are all incipient steps in a cultural program for local stabilization.

Conclusion

Last year, the United States Arctic Research Commission concluded that:

The highest priority research in the health-culture-socio- econmic component of the Arctic system should be on studies to identify and resolve the major health, behavioral, and cultural problems that derive from distinctive characteristics of the Arctic environment and from increasing resource development, industrialization, and urbanization (Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee 1987:213).

Unfortunately, there is no simple panacea for the developmentally-induced problems and conditions facing tribal people today in rural Alaska or elsewhere. Both research and programmatic attempts at finding solutions, for the most part, have been externally initiated, discrete or single-focused and often unconnected to local cultural traditions. Most importantly, they have generally failed to stem the tide of human and cultural destruction sweeping rural Alaska. What is most needed now is action, not more scholarly research.

The comprehensive "Another Development" action strategy advocated in this paper does not purport to be "the solution" either. Rather, it suggests a path for smaller communities which, if pursued, could lead to a solution to a local set of conditions and problems–_a solution in which communities and people, rather than development and things, are what is important.


End Notes

1. See Weaver and Jameson (1978) for a succinct comparative analysis of various approaches to economic development.

2. See Alaska State Chamber of Commerce's 1987 "Report to Alaska's Economic Leaders" for a detailed articulation of this model.

3. For example, Chance (1984), Jenness (1962), Senungetuk (1971), and Van Stone (1984).

4. The Fourth World/Internal Colonial perspective is increasingly becoming part of many analyses of the contemporary north. See, for example, Anders (1983), Berger (1977 and 1985), Dryzek and Young (1985), Klausner and Foulks (1982), O'Neil (1986), Paine (1985) and Ritter (1979).

5. A considerable amount has been published on subsistence. An interesting perspective on its place in a larger historical and contemporary context can be obtained from a review of the Transcripts of the Overview Roundtable Discussions of the Alaska Native Review Commission (1984).

References

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Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. 1987. Report to Alaska's Economic Leaders. Anchorage: Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

Anchorage Daily News. 1988. A People in Peril. January 10—19.

Barnhardt, Raymond J. and Patrick J. Dubbs. 1981. The Log School: A Case for Appropriate Design. IN The Northern Community: A Search for A Quality Environment. Ted S. Vinson, ed. Pp. 143—156. New York: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Berger, Thomas R. 1985. Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission. New York: Hill and Wang.

Brower, Eugene and James Stotts. 1984. Arctic Policy: The Local/Regional Perspective. IN United States Arctic Interests: The 1980's and 1990's. W.E. Westermeyer and K.M. Shusterich, eds. Pp. 319—344. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Chance, Norman A. 1984. Alaska Eskimo Modernization. IN Handbook of North American Indians: Arctic (Vol. 5), David Damas, ed. Pp. 646—656. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Dag Hammarskjold Foundation. 1975. The 1975 Dag Hammarskjold Report on Development and International Cooperation. Development Dialogue (1/2):1—128.

Department of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA). 1987. Preliminary Report on the Economic Dislocation Survey. Juneau: State of Alaska. 1987 Rural Economic Development Initiative Announcement. Juneau: State of Alaska.

Dryzek, John and Oran Young. 1985. Internal Colonialism in the Circumpolar North: The Case of Alaska. Development and Change 16:123—145.

Dubbs, Patrick J. 1984. Development Training in Village Alaska. Education With Production 3(1):69—93. 1986 Organizational Congruence and ANCSA. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Reno, March.

Eaton, Perry. 1987. Economic Development in Smaller Communities. Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science-Alaska Section, Anchorage, September.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 1980. Panel Set Up to Ponder Villages' Future. November 20:2. 1987 Cowper Urges Self-Motivation for Villages. October 18:E-9. 1987 Reaction Mixed to Matching Fund. November 14:16. 1987 Cowper Has Aid Package for Bush. December 29:1 & 10.

Freeman, Milton A. 1986. Renewable Resources, Economics and Native Communities. IN Native People and Renewable Resource Management: Symposium Proceedings. Pp. 29—37. Edmonton: Alberta Society Professional Biologists.

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Jull, Peter. 1985. The Dangers of Turning Inward: Why Subsistence is Not Enough. Northern Perspectives 13(4):11—12.

Kindervatter, Suzanne. 1979. Nonformal Education as an Empowering Process. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Center for International Education.

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Kruse, John A. and Karen Foster. 1986. Changes in Rural Alaska Settlement Patterns. Alaska Review of Social and Economic Conditions 23(1):1—19.

Lane, Theodore. 1983. Alaska's Rural Economy. Alaska Native News 1(11):3—6 & 36.

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McDowell, Peter. 1987. Remarks to the Interior Economic Development Conference. Fairbanks, August.

O'Neil, John D. 1986. The Politics of Health in the Fourth World: A Northern Canadian Example. Human Organization 45(2):119—128.

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Quigley, N.C. and N.J. McBride. 1987. The Structure of an Arctic Microeconomy: The Traditional Sector in Community Economic Development. Arctic 40(2):204—210.

Ritter, K_athleen V. 1979. Internal Colonialism and Industrial Development in Alaska. Ethnic and Racial Studies 2(3):319—340.

Robinson, Michael and Elmer Ghostkeeper. 1987. Native and Local Economics: A Consideration of Economic Evolution and the Next Economy. Arctic 40(2):138—144.

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Stenbaek, Marianne. 1987. Forty Years of Cultural Change among the Inuit in Alaska, Canada and Greenland: Some Reflections. Arctic 40(4):300—309.

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Tussing, Arlon R. 1984. Alaska's Petroleum-Based Economy. IN Alaska Resources Development: Issues of the 1980s. Thomas A. Morehouse, ed. Pp. 51—78. Boulder: Westview Press.

Usher, Peter J. 1986. Devolution of Power in the Northwest Territories: Implications for Wildlife. IN Native People and Renewable Resource Management: Symposium Proceedings. Pp. 69—80. Edmonton: Alberta Society of Professional Biologists.

VanStone, James W. 1984. Exploration and Contact History of Western Alaska. IN Handbook of North American Indians: Arctic (Vol. 5), David Damas, ed. Pp. 149—160. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Weaver, James H. and Kenneth P. Jameson 1978. Economic Development: Competing Paradigms-Competing Parables. Washington: Agency for International Development.

Weeden, Robert B. 1985. Northern People, Northern Resources, and the Dynamics of Carrying Capacity. Arctic 38(2):116—120.

Wolfe, Robert. 1987. Subsistence and Economic Downturns. University of Alaska College of Human and Rural Development Newsletter 8(3):4—5.

Young, Oran R. 1987. After VILLAGE JOURNEY: The Future of Remote Alaskan Communities. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Oaxaca, April.

 

The essays assembled in this collection reflect over 30 years of first hand observation of, and participation in Native education and rural development in Alaska.

CONTENTS

 

 

Part I: Alaska Native Education

Cultural Definitions in Educational Programs

The Log School: A Case for Appropriate Design (with Ray Barnhardt)

Alaska Native Education and Development Ideologies

Part II - Rural Development in Alaska

Organizational Congruence and ANCSA

Another Development in Rural Alaska

Decolonizing Economics

The Whale and the Co-op: The Emerging Issue of Animal Rights in Rural Alaska

Arctic Atolls: Small State Theory and Rural Development in Alaska

Sustainable Development and Indigenous People: Authors and Actors in Rural Alaska

Small Alaska Native Villages: Are They Worth Saving?

 

 

Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.

 


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