This is from my friend Candyce Childers from Eagle River, Alaska. She's one of my closest correspondents and has this to share about subsistence. Her comments remind me that the system of the "over-culture", or, commodity-culture is torqued by selfishness. It is coming undone.
" I went to a public forum at the university discussing the future of subsistence. It was interesting to hear people's perspective on subsistence as a concept. One panelist (Yupik) commented that subsistence and the myriad ways it is regulated is insensitive and bizarre. He drew a comparison between the land as our Native grocery and the grocery stores in the city. He asked the audience to imagine that in order to get food from the grocery in the city we all had to apply for permission. And imagine that we were told we could only go grocery shopping two weeks out of the year during which you must get everything your family of 6 will need for the next winter. On top of that, you could not use a car, bus or other mechanical transport to go to the grocery but must walk. It was powerful and moving.
Another interesting point that a panelist made was how our ancestors handled individuals who were selfish. Even if a man was a good hunter it wasn't a guarantee that he could remain a community member. The community survived by living communally. Everyone had to share their resources and when an individual failed to do so they would banish or kill him. The reasoning was that he would eventually cause the death of the entire village either literally from starvation or from division. Imagine how disruptive it was to have missionaries and teachers move in with their values of individualism and competition."