American Indians Essay Research Paper American Indians

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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.