“The mother died two feet away from her daughter. Separated. They are cursed to be ghost mother and ghost daughter and will wander the grassy plains in the endless search for each other” (Sherman 87). Michael, better known as Zits, says this about the little girl killed by the Indians when he was in Gus’s body. The quote is a metaphor for Michael’s quest for a parental unit, whether it be a mother, as was stated, or a father. Zits has been an orphan for most of his life in the book Flight by Sherman Alexie. Unfortunately, this scenario is more common than people think. Native Americans such as Zits suffer from a relatively high number of orphans due to alcoholism, suicide, living conditions on reservations, and the forceful removal of Indian children from their families through US history.
Alcohol was introduced into Native American culture many years ago and has been a source of suffering since. In Flight, Zits states that his father “was more in love with vodka than with him and his mother,” and it is this statement that helps drive the story along (Sherman 4). Zits addresses the stereotype that come along with being Native American. The major one mentioned in the story is that Native Americans consume a lot of alcohol. This follows what is known as the firewater myth, which says that Native Americans “…may be genetically predisposed to crave ever increasing doses of alcohol…”—this was and still is believed by several researchers (Lamarine). This alcoholism leads to instability within homes and leaves the child to suffer. A perfect example of this is when Zits says that his father “vanished like a magician” shortly after he was born (Sherman 5). It was fear that made Michael’s father run, but it was fear mixed with alcohol that made him stay away. This progression of events is what leads many households, Native American and non-native American, to be parentless.
Native Americans have the highest suicide rate of any other ethnicity, which produces many broken homes. Numerous stories exist in which a sister, a mother, a father, or some other relative receives a call about another close friend or relative being found hanging or overdosed on something. A reason for the prevalence of suicide among Native Americans is that many reservations rarely talk about death. In fact, suicide is so taboo that there is not even “a word for suicide in their native language” (Morales). Flight addresses the issue of suicide, but instead of detailing the consequences of suicide, Sherman portrays it as the only solution to the problems that Zits faces when he is in the body of the pilot. This represents the struggle that many Native Americans face. They have to endure such bad conditions, alcohol and drug abuse being one of these suicide triggers, that solutions are few and far-reaching. Parents on the reservation, men more often victims than women, may commit suicide and consequently, make orphans of their young kids.
Poor living conditions, which began many years...