Date of Award

Spring 2011

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Lawrence Hamilton


This project identifies, investigates, and analyzes factors contributing to the maintenance of a mixed economy in villages and regional centers largely inhabited by Inupiat and Yup'ik in three regions of Northwest Alaska. By examining employment and subsistence patterns, desires for relocation, and employment and subsistence aspirations, this research will contribute to the understanding of work (both traditional and modern), culture, and population shift within indigenous, Arctic populations.

The Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLiCA) is used in conjunction with aggregate demographic data from the Arctic Observation Network Social Indicators Project (AON-SIP) and interviews of residents in the Northwest Arctic Borough communities of Kotzebue and Kivalina, Alaska to provide a detailed account of factors contributing to wage and subsistence practices. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are used to discern differences in behavior and attitudes across gender and place types, and to uncover patterns of work, choice, and movement throughout the region.

By focusing on four variables from SLiCA that capture actual subsistence and employment levels, a desire to leave one's town or village, and work aspirations on an individual level I explore cultural, economic, individual, and community-level factors associated with participating in and having ambitions for wage employment, subsistence activities, and migration. Although a number of previous studies have focused on the Northern mixed economy and levels of participation, little research has sought to identify factors acting as catalysts---pushing individuals to desire work in the wage economy while maintaining traditional subsistence patterns. Few, if any, studies have examined what individuals do versus what they aspire to do.

Results show that aspirations for participation in the mixed economy diverge by place, with more town residents appearing to both desire wage employment and have thought of moving elsewhere. Males are more apt to participate more heavily in subsistence activity and wage work. Overall, results indicate that participation in subsistence and traditional activities while young is closely linked to participation as an adult, to desiring a lifestyle including subsistence, and to remaining in one's native community.