The Cherokees had no tradition of alcohol consumption, so the history of alcohol among the Cherokees begins with its introduction by Europeans. To the purveyors of spirits, the Indians' consumption of alcohol appeared to support the Europeans' view of Native Americans as profligate and irrational. In the mid-eighteenth century, for example, John Gerar William De Brahm, surveyor general for the southern department, wrote about Native people's “love [of] strong Liquors, especially Rum or Brandy, at all times, which they prefer to anything in the World.”1 A closer look at the ways in which the Cherokees incorporated alcohol into their tribal life, however, reveals a range of responses that suggest more than simple addiction. If some Cherokees used liquor only to get drunk, others sought in it the power and prestige they associated with the exotic goods supplied by European traders. Alcohol found niches in Cherokee culture that the Europeans neither expected nor understood. These uses can tell us much about cultural persistence and change.
The deerskin trade and diplomacy were the conduit by which alcohol was first introduced to the Cherokees. The Cherokees initially regarded alcohol, like other items received from colonial officials and traders, to be an exotic good, and as such, it had spiritual power. Like other southern Indians,