American Indians Essay Research Paper American Indians

American Indians Essay, Research Paper

American Indians

By: John Brown

American Indians Indians in eastern North America possessed no alcohol at the

beginning of the colonial period. The Indians who drank did so to the point of

intoxication enjoyed the experience they got from it. If Indians chose to drink out of

frustration and despair, they were not alone; as social scientists have made clear,

whenever Western societies undergo periods of rapid transition, rates of drinking

increase. Documentary evidence also suggests that some Indians enjoyed the heightened

sense of power that seemed to accompany drunkenness. For example, some Indians in the

Great Lakes regions integrated alcohol into their existing ceremonies, notably mourning

rituals. Other groups recognized the importance of alcohol by including it in hospitality

rituals. Recognizing alcohol s power did not mean liking its taste. The primary reason to

drink was to get drunk. Families also suffered, especially when young men sold the furs

and skins from the hunt for alcohol, thereby impoverishing their relatives, who needed

food and durable goods. . Alcohol, according to this view, has been the easiest and

quickest way to deaden the senses and to forget the feeling of inadequacy. The most

popular beverages were cider and whiskey. Water was usually of poor quality, milk was

scarce and unsafe, and coffee, tea, and wine were imported and expensive. Whiskey was

widely produced because it was easily preserved and traded, and it soon became the

medium of exchange on the frontier. Many Americans took small amounts of alcohol

daily, either alone or with the family at home. The other style of drinking was the

communal binge, a form of public drinking to intoxication, and practically any gathering

of three or more men provided an occasion for drinking vast quantities of liquor. Not

only did the Indians learn the binge style of drinking from observing those who

introduced liquor to them, they also found the white man s notion that a man was not

responsible for actions committed while intoxicated consonant with their own notions of

possession by supernatural agents. In towns bordering the reservation, drinker may be

arrested or wake up after drinking with no money. Social and legal prohibitions against

drinking, the absence of a ready supply, and the fact that Indians who drink in public or

in bars in off-reservation border towns are often arrested all help sudden withdrawal and,

in consequence, a high incidence of hallucinatory experiences. Drinking on Indians

reservations, however, continued largely unchanged due to their relative isolation from

the larger society. Today we are told that Indians and Alaska Natives die from alcoholism

at almost five times the overall rate for the nation. (something, 17) Such statistics not

only give cause for concern but also shape how the problem of Indian drinking is

perceived. Many believe that homicide, suicide, and accidents are strongly associated

with alcohol, deaths from these related causes are often put together with deaths directly

the result of drinking, such as alcoholic cirrhosis.


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