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)

Related Stories:
Report cites high rates of substance abuse disorders (01/24)
Congress takes on meth crisis in Indian Country (1/23)
Anti-meth campaign planned for tribes (12/1)
DOI, NCAI to announce anti-meth initiative (11/30)
Tribes face new danger in methamphetamine (3/7)
Update from NCAI winter session in Washington (02/28)
NCAI meets in Washington for winter session (02/27)
CDC: Smoking rates highest among Native Americans (02/02)
Survey finds high-risk behaviors among BIA students (11/13)
Smoking rates among Natives highest in nation (10/10)
Study links childhood experience to alcohol abuse (09/19)
Indian Country tops drug report again (9/17)
Native youth top drug use survey again (09/06)
Native youth targeted in anti-drug ads (5/17)
More Native students abstaining from alcohol (3/25)
Native youth heaviest smokers in nation (4/3)
Report: Native youth highest drug users (10/5)
Tribal tobacco challenges dismissed (9/5)
CDC: Indian mothers heaviest smokers (8/29)
Tribal challenge to big tobacco dismissed (7/17)
Report: Native women heaviest smokers (3/28)
Smoking in Indian Country (3/28)
Ad campaign targets youth drug use (9/7)
Drug use high among Native youth (9/1)