Alcoholism on Indian Reservations-Koschmann

Just recently, I attended one of the Native American House sponsored events. At the event, Chaske Spencer who was cast in the Twilight saga spoke about his past and growing up as a Native American. Spencer grew up on an Indian reservation in Idaho and was exposed to alcohol at a young age. Both his father and sister were alcoholics, as well as a few other members of his extended family. When we talked about Indians and alcoholism in class, I did not realize how big of an issue it is on reservations to this day. Spencer described numerous occasions of alcohol abuse on the reservation that he grew up on. He told one specific story that I found pretty shocking. While partying on the reservation, Spencer was in his early teens at the time, the people that lived there did not hold back from drinking alcohol even in front of young children. Spencer described an incident where he and other Native Americans were drinking, some even doing drugs, while a baby walked around freely in the midst of everything going on. At the time, this seemed a little bit twisted to Spencer but at the same time seemed normal. On the reservation Spencer lived on, alcohol was consumed freely without the consideration of the affect it may have on the younger generations of Native Americans living on the reservation.

I did a little bit of research on this topic and found an interesting statistic. According to the MPR News Website (, the fetal alcohol rate among Indians is 30 times higher than it is for caucasians. The problem of alcoholism on Indian reservations is recognized and recently there have been more efforts to help the issue than there has been in the past.


9 Responses to “Alcoholism on Indian Reservations-Koschmann”

  1. 1 Mike R November 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, that was a very shocking statistic. I did not realize the magnitude of this problem and I am interested to know where it originated from. Can it be traced back to when European’s introduced their alcohol to Indians or is the problem a much more modern one? I thought of Neolin when reading your blog because he advocated a ritual to drink “Black Drink” which would cleanse the body of the foreign poisons (such as alcohol) that were present in the body. He wanted life to return to the way it was before white presence was felt by Indian tribes. Do you know the answer to how this alcohol abuse became such a problem on reservations? Is it possible that the abuse of alcohol was as much of a problem during the time of Neolin as it is today?

    – Mike Robinson

  2. 2 earlynativehistory November 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I just recently read about the the Indian Appropriations Act, passed by Congress in 1851. It created the first reservation in Oklahoma. After this Act was passed, reservations began to encounter social problems, poverty, and unemployment. Many Indians felt confined to their reservations and were considered “wards of the federal government”. It seems that all of these factors could have likely contributed to alcoholism on these reservations.
    Also, once the alcoholism started, it was passed on through generations, possibly genetically.

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