Alcohol Abuse in Native American Communities
Alcohol can ruin anyone’s life if they let it. If not monitored, alcohol can cause great pain to the consumer, but also the people around them. Often people see the problems caused by it, and how a beverage can change one’s life in an instant.
From drunk driving incidents to bar fights, alcohol causes destruction. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and modern sources, alcohol negatively affects American Indians. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and “Native Americans and Alcohol: Past, Present, and Future”, by William Szlemko, James Wood, and Pamela Thurman, American Indians are negatively affected by alcohol at very young ages. Early exposure to alcohol affects their lives for a longer time and has a harsher consequence. For American Indians, this heavy use of alcohol during youth is not unusual. The American Indian Culture is one of the most alcohol consuming cultures in the world.
Kids are influenced by the surrounding adults to drink, and no one is stopping them. In, “Native Americans and Alcohol: Past, Present, and Future”, by William Szlemko, James Wood, and Pamela Thurman, the authors show how many underage kids are drinking when they say, “In 1993, 71% of Native American adolescents in Grades 7-12 reported ever having used alcohol (Beauvais, 1998). In 1996, among a national sample of 17- to 18-year-olds, 62% had drunk alcohol (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1998)” (Szlemko, Thurman, Wood 437). The statistics are astonishing. The evidence shows that if one were to ask a random American Indian teenager if they had drunk alcohol before, they would likely say yes. It shows how casual drinking alcohol is for American Indians.
Such early exposure to alcohol can ruin the child’s life. It can make them do things they regret. The effect of underage drinking is displayed in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, when Junior talks about his fellow tribemates as he says, “Those rythemless, talentless, tuneless Indians are most likely going to get drunk and beat the s*** out of any available losers” (Alexie 17). Junior, talking about the teenagers in his tribe, has definitely felt the effect of underage drinking. Although he has never touched alcohol, Junior is feeling it second hand.
The teenagers in his tribe get drunk, and they are influenced to beat up Junior for no reason. They are not mature enough to handle alcohol, and it has a harsh effect on them. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and “Sociological Perspectives on American Indians”, by Matthew Snipp, Alcohol causes American Indians to commit severe crimes. Alcohol and crime go hand in hand. Alcohol is one of the leading factors of crime in America.
This would make it no shock that American Indians commit a fair share of crime. Their excessive drinking of alcohol is a common motive for their actions. This is evident in “Sociological Perspectives on American Indians”, by Matthew Snipp, when the author says, “American Indian arrest rates are considerably higher than for blacks or whites. However, a very large number of these arrests are for alcohol related offenses (Jensen et al 1977, May 1982)” (Snipp 361). The quote shows how crime is greatly affected by alcohol.
It causes them to be a very crime related culture, something they don’t want to be labeled. Snipp is trying to portray how the main motive for the excessive American Indian crime rate.is alcohol. This abundance of crime is also seen in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, when Junior says, “I know that seven or eight of those Indians lived with drunken mothers and fathers. I knew that one of those Indians had a father who dealt crack and meth. I knew two of those Indians had fathers in prison” (Alexie 195).
Junior’s tribe is infested by crime. Almost everyone on the basketball team had crime involved in their family. With such an alcoholic tribe, most of the crime was triggered by drinking. This behavior influences their kids, and it will cause them to commit crime, ruining their future. Alcohol causes American Indians to commit crimes they will regret. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and “The Social Construction of American Indian Drinking: Perceptions of American Indian and White Officials”, by Malcolm Holmes and Judith Antell, the American Indian culture gains bad reputation and stereotypes due to their excessive drinking of alcohol.
American Indians have gained a reputation that restricts them in the world outside the tribe. Trying to get jobs is a struggle for them, as they are commonly interpreted as alcoholics and criminals. This is portrayed in “The Social Construction of American Indian Drinking: Perceptions of American Indian and White Officials”, by Malcolm Holmes and Judith Antell, when the authors say, “Despite a proliferation of research on American Indians in recent years, myths still surround the subject of alcohol consumption by American Indians and pervade even scholarly work” (Holmes, Antell 154). People of America have a stereotype that American Indians are alcoholics. Although the amount of alcohol consumption has decreased, people still interpret them as alcoholics.
With such a reputation, getting a job is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. In addition to being portrayed as alcoholics, American Indians are commonly interpreted as savage criminals. Due to their high crime rate, they are feared of and avoided. This is evident in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, when Junior says, “None of those guys punched me or got violent. After all, I was a reservation Indian, and no matter how geeky and weak I appeared to be, I was still a potential killer” (Alexie 63). Even as a small, dorky kid, Junior is feared by big, muscular basketball player.
This shows how bad the American Indian reputation is. Anybody of the culture can be a threat. The stereotypes American Indians gain from their alcohol consumption cause them to be outsiders of the world outside of their tribe. In the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, and “Alcoholism Prevention Among Native-American Youth”, by Thomas Young, alcohol consumption is a cause for most American Indian deaths. Every sip of alcohol is a step closer to death. It damages the human body, as well as the brain and its train of thought.
Alcohol leads to accidents upon accidents, some more severe than others. With the American Indian culture, alcohol is a common motive for deaths. This is evident in “Alcoholism Prevention Among Native-American Youth”, by Thomas Young, as the author says, “The suicide and homicide rates are approximately two and three times respectively that of the general population, and alcohol is a variable in 80 percent of all Native American suicides and 90 percent of all homicides” (Young 41). With the amount of alcohol American Indians drink, the statistics are only fitting. Almost all of homicides are caused by alcohol.
This shows how alcohol causes people to do terrible things. It also messes with the human brain. It causes suicidal thoughts, evident in the quote. The actions caused by alcohol is also portrayed in the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, when Junior says, “Way drunk, Eugene was shot and killed by one of his good friends, Bobby, who was too drunk to even remember pulling the trigger” (Alexie 169). Eugene, a close friend of Junior’s was innocently killed because of alcohol.
His friend would never kill Eugene, but alcohol made him. He was effected by it, and he later regretted it. Bobby ended up killing himself. This shows that with all of the drinking American Indians take part in, it can lead to travesties, even death. Alcohol causes American Indians to do regrettable actions, and it is a big motive for American Indian death. The alcohol consumption of Indians has a negative effect on their lives.
Alcohol harms the one who drinks it, but more importantly the people around them. People pay the harsh consequences of alcohol just for a little pleasure. If not moderated, alcohol can ruin anyone’s life, not just American Indians. People are killed every day because of alcohol, and not only does that kill the victim, but the people around them are just as hurt. It is hard to believe people would ignore the severe effects of alcohol. No matter how much one drinks, alcohol always has it way.