Alcohol Problems in Native America: The Untold Story of Resistance and Recovery – The Truth About the Lie

Don L. Coyhis and William L. White

“To colonize or exterminate a people, you must first define them as weeds.” What happens to people treated like weeds? Coyhis and White explore in this book hundreds of years of life in what became America, both before and after the Europeans arrived here, up to the present day. The authors believe that it is not a genetic vulnerability that has created such an epidemic of addiction among Native Americans, but rather the trauma from the destruction of their cultures. Included in that destruction was the tribes’ workable addiction prevention program. Before the Europeans came, the tribes managed psychoactive substances successfully by limiting the amount consumed. The rules included: reducing exposure of children, limiting the frequency of intoxication to ceremonial events, and defining the right to get intoxicated as a prerogative only of the mature or the elderly. I recommend this book for its lively style, well researched material (covering early recovery efforts by Indian preachers, for example) and breadth of information. It is a good read not only for alcoholism specialists – a chapter on Indian Alcoholics Anonymous was informative – but also for those who like American history. Our country is richer in so many ways because the “weeds” redefined themselves and are part of us. This book tells their story and emphasizes that recovery is “alive and well in North American Indian Communities.”

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