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DescriptionALCOHOLISM I The Indian people are afflicted by stereotypes held and perpetuated by the non-Indian. Often these beliefs are based on half-truths and are retained by the dominant society. The lack of adequate factual materials allows these misconceptions to be fostered and hinder the relations between races. One area shrouded in stereotypes due to a lack of factual material is alcoholism. While-interviewing Joe Plumage, an Indian counselor at the State Treatment Center, Jamestown, North Dakota, he explains one reason non-Indians tend to label the Indian people. "I think the only reason that people label Indians.... drinkers out where seen....don't see non-drinkers....a minority within a minority....also Norwegians, Irish....more so than do a white man." These stereotypes may have roots reaching back to a government action of 1802. With only partial knowledge of the restriction of alcoholic beverages on the reservations, a misconception could develop. From Alan Sorkin of the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. we learn that, "A restriction on reservation Indians, imposed in 1802(sic), authorized the President to regulate the selling of alcoholic beverages among the tribes. That authority broadened and strengthened over the years, ultimately prohibiting the sale or gift of liquor to Indians. The validity of the Indian liquor law was upheld by the Supreme Court on several occasions by a broad interpretation of Congress's power to regulate commerce with Indian tribes. However, by 1953, Indians were treated just the same as non-Indians when off the reservation (except where state laws singled them out) and were granted the right of local option for their reservations." Another concept growing from the period of restriction is discussed by Mr. Plumage, "We talk about this concept....drunk or feathers.... few beers and you're drunk and raising hell....why Indian can't drink certain kinds of booze....affects whites same way.... don't buy that theory at all." Actually, the earliest liquor laws were thought to be a method of protecting the Indian people from tactics of fur dealers and traders rather than the Indian people's inability to drink certain liquor. According to the North Dakota Historical Society publication of David Rowe's article, Government Relations with the Fur Trappers of the Upper Missouri, " we learn that "Throughout the decades of trade on the Upper Missouri, the traders attempted to implement their competitive struggles with the most persuasive means they had…alcohol. The trader who did not use it was at a considerable disadvantage. The men of the wilderness generally believed in the "philosophy of rum." They admitted only to one ill effect of liquor, that of an increase in the number of killings. The government earnestly desired measures by which alcohol could be excluded from the Indian country. By 1818 there were fifteen agents and ten sub-agents among the Indians. To the government representatives fell the task of restricting the liquor traffic. The cut-throat competitive tactics employed by the large fur companies continued to cause untold misfortune. Although the government attempted regulation, their over-all results were rather ineffectual." Today, an economic factor adds to the toning of drinking according to Dr. Ballman, Minot State College, "You've got an economic situation coming in here.... elite clubs....convinced there's more drunkenness among Indians than non-Indians....isn't my own personal view." Director of Turtle Mountain Alcoholic Treatment Center, Mr. Grant, explains the past attitudes toward alcohol. "The conceptions regarding alcohol....12 years ago.....Skid life in bars....heavy time did become an alcoholic....cure as called it in that period of time." On the reservation the old practice of incarceration to the heavy drinker changing with a more enlightened view todays working definition of an alcoholic is discussed by Joe Plumage, presently working at the state level with problems of alcohol. "The working definition we use here.... interferes with your life...3% off Skid Row....97% other people.... label of alcoholic must come from the right direction." Mr. Plumage also states that big determining factor of alcoholism is not the amount consumed but rather whether or not that amount interferes with the user's relationships and functions. The Director of Standing Rock's Community Action Program, Jerry Broadhead, discusses the stages of a drinker. In the first stage drinking is a social activity; in the second stage drinking is a symptom of other problems, in the third stage alcohol is the problem - a health problem. A classic example of an alcoholic is given by Joe Plumage. This explanation is applicable to Indian and non-Indian alike. "The classic example of an alcoholic.... holds true with everyone, not only Indians." Judge Wisenberger from Minnewakan defines the differences between the juvenile drinkers on and off the reservation. The reservation law and order policy has a long term effect on the Indian youth "I think that juvenile drinking....apply for a job…record...white kid...his record will not be available to the employer." The two philosophies of treatment of the alcoholic are discussed by Joe Plumage. "Right now....2 schools of philosophy....treat as people....try and accept it....and take it from there." Building on the positive aspects of the Indians culture is an approach Minard White, Adult Education Director at Standing Rock uses to aid in changing attitudes. "We feel that there's a need to build on the positive aspects of Indian culture.... group responsibility... sharing....can be incorporated....upgrading family living." Mr. Plumage comments on the change of attitude reflected by an increased number of people seeking treatment at the State Hospital Facilities. "There is more people becoming aware....can be treated.....not more drinking....greater awareness....can be helped....referrals....more and more Indians here." The return to the reservation offers a challenge for the patient. The situation is described by the Standing Rock Programs for Progress Report, "Alcoholism is a significant result of the social ills such as high unemployment, inadequate education, irrelevant job skills, discrimination, and the indifferent and hopeless historical chain of events of the reservation. Along with organized alcoholism programs, it is the new and persistent efforts through Tribal development that will break this dismal chain." Dr. Weir of the State Hospital Staff suggests sheltered workshops to aid unemployment. "Run a sheltered workshop, bring that can be done....contract there....get paid for it, or whatever." The need for a half-way house is voiced by Mr. Plumage. The half-way house would offer a supportive environment while the patient adjusts to his initial environment. The theory behind an alcoholics' return to the same environment reflects the idea that moving away may be another form of escaping the real situation. If so, Mr. Plumage concludes moving doesn't help because the sick person can't function any place. The Turtle Mountain Reservation has come to see the merit in treatment of the alcoholic in his own community. The background of the Turtle Mountain efforts to meet the challenge of alcoholism is described by Mr. Grant. "In 1967, TM Council on Alcoholism....referral to Jamestown....transportation....some follow-up....this program lasted for about three years." A change of emphasis came in 1970. A committee's visit to Heartview in Mandan, North Dakota confirmed the concept of treatment and the advantage of the home community as a location. "In 1970 the Associates for Progress…coordinating resources....year of meetings…problem of alcoholism that existed in our community." A treatment center was opened in October 1970 at Queen of Peace Priory. According to Mr. Grant since June of 1971 the center has been under the tribal council. Law enforcement and Public Health offices are cooperating by realizing that alcoholism is an illness. Alcoholics Anonymous serves as a supportive group. This organization began here since the mid-50's and expanded in 1959 under the direction of Harriet Halle. The value of community support is not overlooked at the Treatment Center. Mr. Grant comments, "I would like to mention the fact.... community acceptance....17 recovereds are now employed in the center.... I'm sure this wouldn't happen it the community didn't want this to happen." For the future, the centers' staff voices the need to expand the area of family education, in-patient programs, areas of employment and school education programs. Funding will determine the growth. Another approach was governed by available funds. In the 1960's Dr. Whitaker was employed by the Indian people of the Standing Rock Reservation to study the problem of alcohol confronting them. Among the specific suggestions he believed might help the situation were; 1. A massive employment program and an employment program for young men. 2. Examination of BIA and other welfare programs to see if they will allow more sell-determination and tribal involvement in the planning of the reservation. 3. For the chronic alcoholic, psychiatric treatment, family counseling, and rehabilitation is advised. 5. For the juvenile, a more effective education about alcohol, stricter policing of both juveniles and the liquor stores and bars to prevent the sale to youngsters, and greater parental responsibility. 6. For prevention of alcoholism, education of the people of the tribal council, the BIA. (Although efforts were made to find federal funding to set up some sort of program to counteract these problems, they were unable to get the necessary federal support at that time. Recently limited funds have become available.) Perry Many Wounds, past director of the Standing Rock Alcoholism Program reviews early program history. "In 1969 when 0E0....ask questions....special formula....formulate education real cure.... you can arrest the disease of alcoholism....formulate and implement Alcohol Rehabilitation Program." Presently the Standing Rock Program is working to meet the needs of the people as well as planning a more comprehensive approach for the future. Minard White explains, "We fortunately now have.... residential care center will be care center." "Now our thinking is upgrade....need testing resources....can use clergy....AA.... Social services." They also hope to be able to provide employment during the stay at residential center so that once a person has stabilized and is considered to be recovering; the reinforcement of employment will keep him from slipping back. The program will coordinate with Standing Rock Industries as much as possible in an attempt for employment along these lines. Treatment is certainly essential, yet Perry Many Wounds presents another approach to the problems of alcohol. This is a type of preventive approach through education. According to Mr. Many Wounds, "The schools have a responsibility....what alcohol does to the body....AA people in to talk....more of this in our schools." Mr. White comments on an attitude change he observes, "We find that attitudes have changed on the reservation.... law and order....era of education, prevention...tells the story of alcoholism as it it is." In the Standing Rock Sioux Tribes Programs for Progress, Mr. Many Wounds contends a continuity of rehabilitative programs geared to the needs of reservation people must exist, such as, the Standing Rock Commission on Alcoholism and Alcoholism Programs forming the basis for becoming a better informed reservation community about alcohol. The needs are clear, as far as the necessity of the Alcoholism Program; we must then be afforded an opportunity to implement the mechanism by the involvement of our people. The three attempts to meet the challenge of the alcohol problem have been summarized. Each North Dakota Reservation is attempting an approach which is best suited to its individual situation. In common they share the problems of a lack of funding, long held stereotypes and a lack of employment and cross-cultural conflicts. Harrison Cornelius, an Oneida Indian of the Kansas City Indian Center says, " Until we do something about the frustrations which cause the problem, let's forget about the cure." Though the attempts are realizing degrees of success and attitudes are beginning to change, the challenge of alcoholism remains primary for members of the Indian society, as well as, the non-Indian society.
Ordering InformationConsult:
Date of Original1973?
General SubjectIndians of North America
Subject (LCTGM)Alcoholism
Subject (LCSH)Indians of North America
Indians of North America - Economic & social conditions
Indians of North America - Health & welfare
Organization NameUnited States. Bureau of Indian Affairs
LocationNorth Dakota
United States
Item NumberUA Mss. 10. program 13
Format of OriginalTranscripts
NotesScript from the "For Eagles to be Crows" Collection, no audio file available.
Biography/HistoryProgram part of the "For Eagles to be Crows" radio series by KDSU broadcast in 1973.
Publisher of OriginalKDSU Radio (Radio station : Fargo, N.D.)
Place of PublicationFargo (N.D.)
Repository InstitutionNorth Dakota State University Libraries, University Archives
Repository CollectionFor Eagles to be Crows Collection UA Mss 10
Collection Finding AidConsult:
Credit LineNDSU Archives
Rights ManagementCopyrights to this collection remain with the University Archives.
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