Follow me on Twitter

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I am one of a very lucky few that are shareholders in a Alaska Native Company that does well. Twice a year we receive checks, usually a couple thousand in the spring, and about three times as much of that in mid December. We are currently approaching our winter checks.

There are some observations I have been confronting and examining. Some thoughts that drift and solidify and drift some more. It is hard for me to contemplate these questions simply because more often than not I am left with nothing but frustration or annoyance on my plate.

It's not that this free money is bad in any way, it's more like the observation that there is no responsibility whatsoever attached to it. And for some strange reason this irks me. Irks me to no end. Twice a year I receive a direct deposit into my account, and a tiny stub in the mail that I hand over to my tax preparer. That's it. There is no accompanying recommendations or programs I could invest my money in, no slips of paper to describe some well deserving non-profit that would benefit from a few bucks from me, no bank willing to give me a good deal on a savings account for my children (if I had any), not a peep or a squeak about the possibilities that this money could become. Nothing at all from the company that cuts me the check. It's as if they are done with me once they mail the check, and that is all that I am worth.

There are 10,000 of us that receive theses checks. 10,000 souls spread across the U.S., with half living out of state. We accept these checks as part of life, with no knowledge of why get them in the first place. With no thought on how fleeting this money could become. What if this money disappears (as it might since it's largely based on oil production on the Slope and as we all know it's a finite source) what will be left for us? Will we have learned money budgeting skills? will we have some of it stored away for a rainy day? What exactly is this money doing for us? What percentage of it actually goes to bettering our lives?

Personally my check goes to paying for 6 months worth of food and supplies for our pantry, I embark on a mad and crazy shopping spree for a few days that usually leaves me completely exhausted and insane. My husbands goes to our vehicle and gas bill which is forever present, as we cannot live without a vehicle to hunt or gather our main sources of food. A tiny amount goes to a savings account created for unexpected costs....

But we were not always this careful with our money, and it was only the responsibility of a shared life that made us rein in our spending sprees. As an artist I have long accepted the fact that my head is not for financial pleasures but I still wonder.....

I would be most willing to put some in a savings account if the Company arranged an easy and SAFE long term program that they set up.....but I fear they are only in it for the money. For the money they throw at me that feels like hush money on some days. They send a few pages to me me a few times a year filled with large numbers and professional pictures, printed on expensive and large paper, and they announce visits to the villages to answer questions, but I do not know (even with my degrees and half degrees) what this means and how it betters my life...

But what sane person would object to getting free money?


  1. I get that it must be annoying to not feel considered - it would be great to have some more benefits, some deals, right ? But getting money from your investment is already good, and you don't want spam mail with each check, at least not indefinitely. My bank's always sending me plans I don't care about - but that must be because I don't have responsibilities yet, nor clear outlook on the future.

    The stock market and banks have proved their vulnerability during the global crisis. This money you get already improves your life, and you're actually taking a risk with participating in this business : any drop in the share value and you might be losing money instead. So don't say you're not doing anything.

    As of "some well deserving non-profit that would benefit from a few bucks", I believe that if one is interested in helping, they will look up for that themselves. Like a foreigner would look up your customs himself if he's interested in your culture. Anyway I would find it highly unusual (to the point of being highly suspicious) that a company would propose donating - they would rather you invest some more in their business, I guess.

    1. The problem is that I am different than most Natives. A huge percentage of ASRC natives take all the money and go on vacation...abandoning jobs, or go on a drinking binges for a couple weeks. They take their children out of school for weeks at a time, which leave the children behind at school when they finally come back, if they are not kicked out of school for absences. After the checks the child services people have to come in and take a whole bunch of kids from their parents and put them in the government programs. People spend it on frivolous things,without thought of using it to make life easier, or better. Houses crumble around them,but they don't see this money as needing to be used to fix them. Some people get 17,000 dollars (they get their children's checks also) and are broke again two weeks later. This money is creating a culture of it's own, and is not teaching or benefiting most people at all. They are giving money to people who do not know what to do with it. In school they teach you how to balance a check book and they teach you basic math that is required by the government....they don't even hint to you how to save money or how to use it to benefit. People don't realize that our culture and people are new to the 'New' world. That what seems obvious and normal to them, has never ever been taught to us. It's a cultural gap. They have set up a Western system, and are surprised when no one knows how to use it.