Wiki Research: American Indians & Alcoholism
By: Adam Shanks

American Indians have many different impressions on today’s society. People tend to have many stereotypes that label these Indians incorrectly without even knowing who they truly are. Throwing labels such as all; owning a casino, wearing feathers, and are violent warriors. The stereotype that has caught my eye the most is the typical bias towards American Indians and their connection to alcoholism. A lot of people, even I did, have the assumption that the majority of American Indians suffer from alcoholism and that is indeed not the case. After further research I came across some interesting sites that had information that proved otherwise.
In many studies that are put on researching the numbers of Indians and how alcoholism affects them are done with the wrong standards. In one study they authors stated, "The first concerns prevalence rates, which indicate that alcohol dependence is a serious concern in these American Indian communities, but not nearly as dramatic as has been reported in previous research using non-random samples that may have provided biased estimates. The second concerns the importance of cultural differences, both in terms of alcohol dependence and related to other factors such as gender, age, and marital status." (#1) This quote shows two of the main problems with the studies that have been done in the past, they do not take into effect that every tribe is different and you cannot just generalize an entire race.
In my mind the biggest reason behind the stereotype of every American Indian being an alcoholic is promoted by how they are perceived in pop culture. Ranging from movies to even national news, the majority of advertisements that we see involves American Indians tends to show the negative side of them. A quote from a reading I found states, “Alcoholism's prevalence among Indians not only has caused enormous physical and emotional problems. It also has led to stereotyping, including in movies as recent and popular as "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Apocalypto." These powerful films depict Indians in a violent or stereotypical way, suggesting that all Indians are afflicted with drug and alcohol problems.” (#12) An example I can provide took place back in my high school Sociology class. Our teacher showed us a video that showed very poor Indians who live in shanties and resorted to heavy alcohol abuse. They were shown buying Pine Sol to drink because it contains alcohol and it is cheaper than buying actual alcoholic drinks. This type of video is exactly the type of thing that is shown to the world and it really is a bias view that doesn’t show any positive sides of the American Indians.
“Westerns and documentaries have tended to portray Natives as stereotypes: the wise elder, the aggressive drunk, the Indian princess, the loyal sidekick, obese and impoverished. These images have become known across North America.” (#6) People over time have been shown these images which instill those “ideas” of the American Indians in their mind. I will even admit that before I entered into this class I had all of the same stereotypical views. I thought all Indians wear feathers and only live on reservations. Most importantly I thought that most to all Native Americans are alcoholics. Most of the readings that I found have information that has opened my eyes to the real stats, instead of seeing the stereotype that I usually see through the pop culture world. Even in class we have gone over so many different opinions people have and the misperceptions that are expressed everywhere in today’s world, that a majority are incorrect. I hope that the positive side of the Native Americans will eventually be promoted, with how much of the negatives that has been thrown into monotonous propaganda so it may be difficult. Over time if the true stats are revealed and pop culture takes part in the positive side of American Indians, then the problem can be partially resolved, but until then, the typical stereotypes will remain.
Bibliography
1 Spicer, P., & Beauvais, F. (2003, November 15). View of American Indian Drinking 'Bias'. ACER News Release. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/genetics/a/blacer031116.htm

2. Mihesuah, D. A. (n.d.). American Indians: Stereotypes & Realities. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://stereotype.drumhop.com/Reality.html

3.American Indian alcoholism. (n.d.). In en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_alcoholism

4. Beauvais, Fred. "American Indians and Alcohol." . N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-4/253.pdf

5.American Indian Alcoholism. (n.d.). In Native American Netroots. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from http://www.nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/327/american-indian-alcoholism

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