Morgan, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, spent more than a year in Alaska impressionistically chronicling the transition of the state's natives from a subsistence to a money economy; from whale meat to Spam, a change given new impetus by the 1971 settlement of the Alaskan Land Claims. Dividing her time between the most remote and primitive communities still dependent on whale and reindeer and some quite up-to-date villages, she also took some measure of the several cultural and linguistic groupings -- Aleuts, Athabascans, Yupik, Tlingits, etc. In the Arctic village of Point Hope the author spent a month as cook for a whaling crew; in Bethel, described as ""the armpit of Alaska,"" she worked in a ""sleep-off center"" for drunks. Brisk and intrepid, Morgan is a good reporter with a sharp, intelligent eye for Eskimo customs and a knack for fitting in; she never gives the impression of observing the quaint locals. Though the level of political sophistication varied widely from place to place, poverty was acute and alcoholism a serious problem, there is nothing of the bleeding-heart or the muckraker in her reportage. Most of the people she encountered evinced new cultural pride and were eager for more and better education. The Alaska Federation of Natives and regional organizations commanded respect at the village level. Despite incredible hardships one is left with the impression of a smoother, easier acculturation than is generally the case among, say, American Indians. The book is optimistic and future-oriented and Morgan's obvious pleasure in the company of Eskimos rubs off on the reader.