Native American Alcoholism Essay

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The Burden of Alcohol Consumption on Native Americans
Native Americans were using alcohol long before Europeans colonized America. Alcohol was consumed mainly for spiritual reasons, and their beverages contained only diluted alcohol, as much effort was required to produce it. Native Americans used alcohol to communicate with spiritual forces, and only highly ranked priests had access to it. Distillation, then a European process of making more potent alcoholic beverages, was unknown to them, but when the Europeans started trading with the Native Americans, the newcomers introduced them to methods of making more potent drinks. The sudden abundance of more potent beverages did not permit the natives to regulate their use of alcohol, in contrast to the Europeans, who had thousands of years of experience and had regulated its distribution centuries before. Due to the history of alcohol in the New World, factors such as socioeconomics, culture, and genetics have influenced modern Native Americans to abuse alcohol comparably more than other ethnic groups, and it has had a destructive effect on their society.
In his fictional book Reservation Blues, Sherman Alexie, a Native American himself, describes the lives of Native Americans on a Spokane reservation in Washington State. In the book, alcoholism on this reservation is discussed in meticulous detail. For example, Alexie indicates that one of the reasons for such a high rate of alcohol abuse among the Spokane tribe members is the socioeconomics of the reservation. Poverty, unemployment, and low schooling levels often encourage alcohol consumption. For example, Simon, one of the characters in Alexie’s story, cannot afford to repair his truck, so he drives his pickup truck backward, put...

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...were forced to assimilate European culture, often through violent means. The trauma caused by the violence and cultural loss have led Native Americans to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Finally, their genetic predisposition is also a disadvantage, and unfortunately, it has only served to strengthen their addiction to alcohol.

Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. “Author Sherman Alexie Talks ‘Flight.’” Interview by Rebecca Roberts. Talk of the Nation. NPR. Seattle, Washington, 11 Apr. 2007. Radio. Transcript.
Alexie, Sherman. Reservation Blues. New York: Grove, 1995. Print.
Beauvais, Fred. “Spotlight on Special Populations. American Indians and Alcohol.” Alcohol Health & Research World 22.4 (1998): 253-259. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 23 July 2014.
Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1993. Print.
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