Village Food Systems
Interior village economies are mixed subsistence-cash, reflecting the values and realities of modern village life. Subsistence, a Western term used to describe traditional food gathering and consumption activities, forms the basis of village life. The driver for this is, first and foremost, cultural, but there is a practical aspect to it as well. Not only is wild food largely preferred but obtaining other food, such as prepared and packaged grocery items or fresh fruits and vegetables, is expensive and often difficult.
As for Alaska Natives throughout the state, Native foods form the nutritional foundation for Interior Alaska Natives and ground people culturally and spiritually. Moose, caribou, fish, waterfowl, small game (muskrat, porcupine, beaver), wild greens and berries are essential food staples. Village residents also consume commercial food, which they obtain through a variety of ways. Every village has at least one store that stocks basic canned goods, soda, chips, candy and a limited assortment of frozen foods. Village residents usually buy in bulk when in town visiting friends and family or on medical or business trips, or use the bush order services offered by Fairbanks and Anchorage supermarkets.
Relatives and friends living in town may also routinely shop for and ship groceries. This is not just a one-way flow of goods as in-town people often receive moose, fish, beaver and other Native foods that are difficult to obtain while living in the city. Food exchange also occurs among village residents with access to different wild resources. For example, Interior people may receive muktuk or seal oil from friends and relatives in coastal villages or send fish strips from the lower Yukon to people upriver.
Gardening is also popular in Interior villages — an activity that was introduced by non-Native missionaries, miners, and other settlers. Today, many village residents maintain small plots beside their homes, and community gardens — some of which are fenced and annually tilled by the city or tribal government — are common.