It Seems To Be The White Man's Fault

2471 words - 10 pages

It Seems To Be The White Man's Fault I'll never forget the first time that my step-father called me from this hole in the earth that I had never heard of called Farmington, NM It was here in the southwest that my step-father attended flight training school at San Juan College.He called me to say hi, and during our conversation he began telling me jokes that he had heard about drunk Indians. While telling me the jokes, he also proceeded to tell me that the alcohol problem that he had witnessed among the natives was one of the most disturbing things that he had seen. He told me one specific story about how he was driving down the street in Farmington and he looked off to the shoulder of the road and saw a native man lying lifeless. While laughing hysterically he finished the story by telling me that, " what was so funny was that the cops didn't even take him to detox, they just put cones around him so nobody would run over him." At the time I thought it was funny also. My family is one that was raised in the "blonde culture" of Southern California, and never had any exposure to native peoples, their struggles, or the history of their struggles. Due to my excessive naiveté, I arrived in the southwest ready to attend college, full of stereotypical ideas of what native peoples were all about. Now, after taking a number of southwest studies courses here at Fort Lewis College, I have not only acquired interest, but have acquired knowledge about the history of Indian/White relations and have wanted to understand the why and where the stereotype of the drunk Indian originated. The immortal stereotype of the native American in this country is that of a public drunk, and this is an image that has been witness since colonial times. Along with the strength of the visual nature of the public drunk is the idea that natives are more susceptible to the lure of alcohol than other people. Natives either can't hold their liquor or they can't resist it and will drink until they fall over, no matter where hey might be. Unfortunately there is a bit of truth behind the stereotype. In colonial times it was almost common practice for, "Europeans to use alcohol as a negotiating tool with the natives" (Mancall, 22). The Europeans would get the natives drunk and then ask for them to sign a treaty, ask for a trade that was unfair (often involving the trade of more alcohol), and even ask for land rights etc. This tactic was especially unfair because according to many traditional teachings there was to be no consumption of any drug when not involved in some designated ceremony. The stress of the European invasion went hard on the native people who had lived on these lands undisturbed for over a hundred thousand years. "So prevalent was the use of alcohol in dealings with the Indians that the early history of this country is full of references to the drug. It was the excuse for the first prohibition laws-not because alcohol...

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