At the general store in Noorvik, an Inupiaq village on the banks of the Kobuk River, Pauline Morris and her customers are on a constant quest for dollars and coins. It's not unusual for a local customer to walk into the Morris Trading Post with a $500 or $1,000 paycheck and use it to buy $20 in groceries, she says.
Typically, Morris hands them whatever cash she can spare and writes them a check for the balance. A stamp on the check identifies it as change — it becomes a sort of "faux currency" that some will use as cash elsewhere in town.
Like most remote villages, Noorvik has no bank and no ATM. And when the trading post runs out of dollars and coins, "I have to go out and get them," Morris says. That means a bank run to Kotzebue — 37 miles away by plane at a cost of $170 or more round trip.
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