Vancouver Island University
In our society, we have placed a lot of negative beliefs or stereotypes on the first nations communities. We have given them stereotypes such as, the “lazy Indian”, the “uneducated Indian”, the “dumb Indian” and the “drunken Indian”. In this paper I will discuss the stereotype of the “drunken Indian”. I will highlight where the “drunken Indian stereotype came from and why it exists. I will explain what this stereotype means and the impact it has on first nations communities. I will also discuss how this stereotype has been reflected in what has occurred in British Colombia in relation to the health and well-being of First Nations children, families and communities. Finally, I will show how I, a child and youth care practitioner, can address this stereotype while working with children, youth and families.
Source of Stereotype
Anderson (2007) states that,
Before first contact, drug and alcohol use was strictly controlled and
tightly bound to social customs and tribal rituals. The advent of
problematic drinking is seen to coincide with exposure to European
drinking patterns and culturally disruptive colonial policies. Some have
argued that heavy/binge drinking was a learned behavior modeled by
European traders and then reinforced by earlier illegality of alcohol use.
Others maintain that assimilation policies such as the residential school
system contributed to the breakdown of traditional culture and family thus
creating a social environment conducive tom problematic alcohol use (p.442).
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (1991) states that many of the problems that aboriginal communities face today, such as alcoholism, can be traced back to the sense of disconnection that children experience as a result of being sent to residential schools. The first nations children were taken away from their families and put into residential schools and during their time in these schools many were abused sexually, physically and emotionally. These children were stripped of their language and their culture as well as their family. As they grew up many of these first nations people turned to alcohol or drugs as a way to deal with the pain and suffering they went through during their time in the residential schools. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation (2003) states that “The detrimental impact that alcohol abuse has in many Aboriginal communities and the significant amount of public attention it has received through the media has resulted in a negative association between Aboriginal people and alcohol use within the general public (p.23).” Poverty, unemployment, family breakdown and poor social and economic structures has also been linked to high amounts of alcohol use among first nations communities (Dell, C & Lyons, T, 2007). We must understand that this is the way that many first nations people cope with their traumatic life circumstances. They don’t have the tools they need to cope in a healthier more productive way.
Meaning of the stereotype
It is widely believed that First nation people cannot engage in moderate consumption of alcohol. The belief is that first nations drink to get drunk and when they do this it often ends in tragic results such as crime, recklessness and violence. The “drunken Indian” stereotype “…implies that individually, Aboriginal people are biologically incapable of engaging in ‘responsible’ consumption of alcohol”(Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2003. p23). Due to the “drunken Indian” stereotype many people may assume the worse when something goes wrong and there are first nation people involved. An example of how the “drunken Indian” stereotype is portrayed is as follows. In Williams Lake, BC, in 1988 a young woman walked into the emergency...
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