Professor Arendt Oak Speser
November 1, 2012
The Reality of Native American’s Alcohol Privileges
The stereotype that has plagued Native Americans for over a century, that they are major alcoholics, is familiar to many nowadays. Amongst the many is author of West of Here, Jonathon Evison. It seems he’s maybe a little too familiar with the stereotype, judging by his depiction of most of the Klallam Indians in the novel as alcohol addicts. More so however, and probably more controversially, is his brief implication that Native Americans were prohibited by law from the consumption of alcoholic beverages. I say “controversially” because that was simply not the case in the real life 1890’s, which makes you wonder why Mr. Evison decided to include a false detail of no high significance.
Another thing simply not factual of the real life 1890’s, or any point in time regarding this matter, is the general thinking that Indians consume way more alcohol than non-Indians. This is a falsehood that has been weaved into the novel by the author as if it was common knowledge. Alcohol was as available to whites as much as it was to Natives. Not to mention white people most likely had more access as they were generally the richer of the two races and could therefore afford more. Yet not one white character is given the “drunk and disorderly” description put upon members of the Klallam tribe, including Hoko’s father, Joseph King, Stone Face, and Horatio Groves. At times, they are described more as sad and pathetic than disorderly, as when a pleading and sad Joseph King is begging Stone Face for a sip. “Finally, Stone Face gave him [Joseph] the bottle, and so greedily did the old man partake of it that the liquid overflowed from his mouth and ran down his face, and Stone face wrestled the bottle back from him and slapped him across the face” (160) is, to me, a description of pitiable people behaving as if there was no life without alcohol. It’s...