A Story of Hope for Native Americans

By Enos, Gary A. | Addiction Professional, July/August 2006 | Go to article overview
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A Story of Hope for Native Americans

Enos, Gary A., Addiction Professional

A Story of Hope for Native Americans Alcohol Problems in Native America: The Untold Story of Resistance and Recovery-'The Truth About the Lie' Don L. Coyhis and William L. White; White Bison, Inc.; Colorado Springs, Colo., (719) 548-1000; 2006; ISBN: 1-59975-229-8; softcover; 258 pages; $18.95

Anyone working in a program serving Native Americans should consider this volume required reading for uncovering the misinterpretations and omissions that have marked the related history of Native Americans and alcohol use. Moreover, anyone who has ever drawn conclusions about any client's addiction and prospects for recovery based on a supposed understanding of cultural influences may experience an awakening after reading this powerful work. Its lessons likely transcend the painful experiences of the Native American community.

Telling the Native American story is a lot about credibility. And it's hard to imagine a more credible pair of collaborators than Don Coyhis, founder of the nonprofit group White Bison that is facilitating the Native community's ambitious "Wellbriety" movement, and William White, who has detailed recovery in Native tribes among his many contributions to chronicling the field's history. While writing in part to inspire Native Americans with largely untold stories of recovery and the recapturing of the Native heritage, the coauthors make it clear that they also want to help policy makers "see Native alcohol and other drug problems in a larger historical and cultural perspective."

To do this, Coyhis and White use the early chapters to familiarize readers with Native Americans' use and attitudes toward alcohol before and after their contact with Europeans. What emerges in this section, through the help of much detailed and referenced information, is that while alcohol use prior to European contact was marked by elaborate rituals that minimized abuse, use patterns began to become destructive for more Natives after tribes came under physical and cultural assault. A broader racial interpretation of Natives' alcohol-using behavior perpetuated these problems, with Euro-Americans using to their advantage the mistaken notions that Native Americans had a genetic propensity to alcohol abuse and that they were incapable of resolving alcohol problems without outside intervention.

Recovery champions

This book counters common stereotypes in demonstrating not only that Native American history is replete with tribal leaders who became advocates for recovery, but that their words and deeds resembled those of individuals who would be considered pioneers in the modern recovery movement hundreds of years later.

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