Alcoholism and the American Indian A more befitting title should read: “American Indian and what alcohol accomplished. “ In an October 2016 online brief by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitacker, “What’s behind the myth of Native American Alcoholism”, it is eminent that alcoholism is as much as a predisposition to Native Americans as it is for ,what is considered, white people. As early as 1777 “Fur Traders” would compensate Indians with barrels of rum for the furs that were greatly needed. This was not only a disproportional trade and benefitted the “Fur Traders”, but it also gave them an advantage if the rum was consumed doing the negotiation process.
This was just one of many examples as the Europeans wish to move into lands where Indians were prevalent. As settlers moved into this land that was and still today is called “abandoned” or “unsettled”, alcohol was the main negotiating tool that brought favor to those wishing more for less.
It is not that the Native Americans did not have a drink that could be considered alcohol, but to the Europeans it was weak and the distilled spirits that were created by the Europeans was so strong to the Natives that in comparison the Natives could not hold they’re liquor.
When in fact, the Natives had their conscious altering substances. Plants such as datura, peyote and tobacco were used in questioning visions and spiritual knowledge. Natives being the inquisitive people they were invited the Europeans not knowing what was behind the motives of most.
The Natives were not social drinkers and learned this practice from the settlers and military that were observed in the lands they traveled. With the observation of just how the affect of the alcohol of the European had on the men, the proud but inquisitive Natives would try the alcohol and it provided a feeling that was more powerful than what was given by the fermented roots and leaves that the Natives were accustomed to.
There were no real studies on the affect of alcohol on the Native Indian culture until the 20th century, which is devastating to say the least. In an online article dated July 30, 2013 by Andrew Bentley titled, “Alcohol: It’s different for Native Americans”. He noted that there has been a disconnect in how the Native has been portrayed and/or viewed in the eyes of the United States and the world for some time. Not knowing just how alcohol has destroyed a culture and if I might add wiped out a people. Those that enjoy this land called America has only become a negative part of the Native Indians history. By being the perfect colonizer, Bentley added that alcohol has no conscious, feels no remorse or regret for the modern holocaust that it caused. Alcohol has also caused people to associate it as one of the primary additions to the Natives culture. Television, books and more than a few times movies show the Indian as being a savage that cannot get enough alcohol and when acquired goes into this rage that causes harm to the peaceful settlers of the land.
Also, portraying the Native Americans as a people that have little to know values, living day to day as a lost dog, searching for food and shelter, not caring about who or what they destroy. When in actuality the Natives would remain to themselves and only defend if there was a threat to the family or village. Alcohol change the minds of Natives as it changes the minds of Europeans if consumed in abundance. So, to state that the Natives were one thing while the Europeans were another under similar circumstances was not fair, nor the truth. As it should be written, the Europeans in search for land, precious metals, animal fur and oil caused more destruction than the Natives had caused in the years prior, because the land was pristine and nature lived in a harmonious time. Free from the vision of greed or conquest, alcohol change that and brought devastation to the people of the land and the future that would have been. In an online article for the Washington Post, by Elahe Izadi dated February 12, 2016 titled, “Your assumption about Native Americans and alcohol are wrong”.
In this article Elahe states that the thought that Native Americans drink more than other groups is incorrect. That according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Researchers found that Natives are more likely to abstain from alcohol altogether and the two groups had comparable rates of heavy and binge drinking. Adding that the stereotype of the drunken Indian that has been the stigma of a nation should be erased from media and the general public. According to Teshia Solomon, director of the University of Arizona’s Native American Research and Training Center and Jim Cunningham, a social epidemiologist. The stereotype that has been placed on the Native has caused an affect on everything from job prospects to a kind of diagnosis a doctor gives. These disparities in alcohol-related health consequences among Natives has caused alcoholic liver disease. The research found that about 17 percent of whites and Natives were binge drinkers, meaning they consume more than four drinks on a given day.
Rates for heavy drinking or sustained binge drinking were also comparable; 8.3 percent for the Native and 7.5 percent for whites. As it pertains to abstaining from alcohol, 60 percent of Natives didn’t have a drink during the preventive month as compared to 43 percent of whites. In an online article on The Verge webpage by Maia Szalavitz dated October 2, 2015, titled “No, Native Americans aren’t genetically more susceptible to alcoholism”. She emphasizes that addiction is often described as an equal opportunity disease, it is not. In this article addiction is characterized as a bully that preys on persons that are already hurting. The more trauma and social exclusion the greater the addiction risk. As stated, the apogee or highest point of a victim-blaming, the idea that a genetic “inferiority” causes native peoples to be particularly susceptible to addiction wasn’t falsifiable when it was initially spread. As mentioned earlier in this paper there is no evidence that the Natives were or are more biologically susceptible to substance use disorders than any other group.
A paper in the University of Colorado Denver journal, titled Alcoholism, Alcohol Abuse, and Health in American Indians and Alaska Natives, written by Patricia Silk-Walker, Dale Walker and Daniel Kivlahan. This paper centers on the biological and/or health issues that have been caused or stated as being caused by the use of alcohol in the Natives of North America. In this report based on data from the early 1980’s show that there was a significant need to examine the cause of alcohol on the Natives and just how it has affected the lack of growth in a culture and the image of the descendants’ of a once great people. Alcohol is a disease that should have been treated not exploited for person gain or to the detriment of a people. By using alcohol as a catalyst to suppress growth or demean the visions of others or sway a person’s image of another was cruel and inhumane.