Fact Check: Native Americans and Alcohol

Fritz_Baumann_Trinker_1915As I grew up in a family of alcoholics with not terribly distant Native American roots, I heard a lot of things about North America’s indigenous people and alcohol. As it turns out, none of it was true. I never claimed any kind of American Indian identity, considering such disingenuous coming from a white guy from the suburbs who draws his heritage from plenty of sources both known and unknown. Anyway, here’s an interesting piece about Native Americans and alcohol, courtesy of Today I Found Out:

It is a sad truth that Native Americans suffer from alcoholism at rates far higher than those of other ethnic groups. While many causes likely contribute to this problem, some of those most commonly espoused, including lack of prior exposure to alcohol and genetic predisposition, are oft-repeated misconceptions. In fact, well before Europeans began to colonize the Americas, Native Americans were putting on a nice, polite buzz.

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  • TheLie

    I like Marshal McLuhan’s suggestion- that the alcoholic tendencies of Westerners provides a way to disconnect oneself from society, a violent severing of ties to a system which imposes itself on the individual, while Native understanding of the world as inherently unified, with every person and thing part of the elaborate tapestry of existence needed no escaping from. For natives alcohol shattered the social tapestry which previously existed, breaking down communities into individuals disconnected from one another.

    • InfvoCuernos

      Or, they’re just drinking at one long wake mourning the loss of their way of life.

      • TheLie

        yeah that’s sort of implied.

  • Rx Relaxation

    You mean the high rate of alcoholism on the Pine Ridge Reservation is due to the governmentally enforced abysmal living conditions and not to the fact that they are injuns who are magically drawn to the readily-accessible hootch just beyond the border of the rez? Do yourself a favor and google “Russell Means: Welcome To The Reservation”. And then forgive yourself for listening to Alex Jones introducing it, but seriously, listen to it.

    • kowalityjesus

      That guy is pretty admirable, but also speaks lots of half truths. Upvote for the notable reference!

  • InfvoCuernos

    I got called a racist once (well, I get called a racist a lot actually, but..), because I argued with a woman that claimed that African-Americans have a genetic predisposition toward drug abuse. My argument is that the predisposition is cultural, not genetic. She then said “oh ya? What about the Irish then?” I told it was probably because they were both oppressed by the same Anglo-Protestant assholes that drove them to the substance abuse and then she called me a racist. This sounds about the same. When I say its cultural, I’m not talking about the victim culture, but the oppressor culture.

    • Jin The Ninja

      from what you wrote above, you’re referring to the same thing, many if not all, indigenous scholars refer to as ‘historical trauma.’ in fact, the whole notion is deeply anti-racist.

    • oneironauticus

      See, I thought that “racism” implied the belief that certain genetic groups are better than others at certain things…wouldn’t she be the racist?

      • InfvoCuernos

        In a rational world, yes. BUT I made the mistake of saying that I didn’t vote for Obama, so I’m obviously the racist. I tried to point out that I didn’t vote for Obama’s white half as well as not voting for his black half, but that didn’t wash. She was a classic example of the white liberal that acts like that one vote erases all that white guilt. Somehow, in her head, voting for Obama was like a sympathy vote, and that was OK. I would respect someone who voted for him because they agreed with his policies way more than that kind of crap.