Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health | Opinion
Opinion: Getting the story right on alcoholism


"It's true that alcoholism and drug abuse have caused terrible problems for many North American Indians. But it's also true that great numbers of Indians can drink socially (or not drink at all) and not incur serious problems.

For the media, striking a balance between those two facts is central to “getting the story right.”

Alcoholism's prevalence among Indians not only has caused enormous physical and emotional problems. It also has led to stereotyping, including in movies as recent and popular as 'Flags of Our Fathers' and 'Apocalypto.' These powerful films depict Indians in a violent or stereotypical way, suggesting that all Indians are afflicted with drug and alcohol problems.

Like all stereotypes, this one is inaccurate because it ignores the uniqueness of each individual. One might expect a more balanced portrayal of Indians in the world of science; but unfortunately, scientific inquiry - with its emphasis on defining and solving problems - has not focused on the vast number of Indians who maintain sober and productive lives.

Then there is the fact that science and the media have focused on Indians living on reservations, even though for decades, the federal government enforced an assimilationist policy that removed Indians from their lands and made their coping mechanisms illegal."

Get the Story:
Mike Eshkibok: Getting alcoholism right in Indian Country (The Grand Forks Herald 3/5)
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