Historical and cultural roots of drinking problems among American Indians

John W. Frank, Roland S. Moore*, Genevieve M. Ames

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Roots of the epidemic of alcohol-related problems among many Native North Americans are sought in cultural responses to European arrival, the role of alcohol in frontier society, and colonial and postcolonial policies. Evidence from the historical record is considered within the framework of current social science. Initially, Native American's responses to alcohol were heavily influenced by the example of White frontiersmen, who drank immoderately and engaged in otherwise unacceptable behavior while drunk. Whites also deliberately pressed alcohol upon the natives because it was an immensely profitable trade good; in addition, alcohol was used as a tool of 'diplomacy' in official dealings between authorities and natives. The authors argue that further research into the origins of modern indigenous people's problems with alcohol would benefit from an interdisciplinary 'determinants of health' approach in which biological influences on alcohol problems are investigated in the context of the cultural social, and economic forces that have shaped individual and group drinking patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-351
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000


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