As the Cherokee experience demonstrates, the story of Native Americans and their relationship with alcohol is a complicated one. Taking the long view—across two centuries— suggests that a single analytical model or a deeply held moral conviction cannot adequately explain the role of alcohol in Native societies. At specific times, alcohol created problems in Cherokee society, but at other times, Cherokees managed to regulate consumption in ways that asserted their sovereignty and demonstrated their morality. That is, among the Cherokees, alcohol in and of itself does not seem to have been an omnipresent, debilitating problem. The construction of alcohol as a problem by politicians, reformers, and scholars, however, has played an important role in Cherokee history, and this study has attempted to distinguish those constructions from the actual history of alcohol among the Cherokees. The history of alcohol in turn reflects the history of the Cherokee people.
Like many goods acquired from Europeans, Cherokees found ways to integrate alcohol into their culture. Gifts to warriors, especially from the British, generally included guns and ammunition, paint, and rum. Cherokees, therefore, came to regard alcohol as one of the accoutrements of war. They used it as a powerful war medicine, drank to excess, and so-