Message, Performance, and Persona
The three Dogrib prophets were divinely inspired to bring the word and will of Christianity's God to the people. That was the ultimate understanding that underlay the message of each prophet. Although their messages were public pronouncements, addressed to the people, the prophets called on each individual to exercise spiritual and behavioral discipline, effecting personal reformation and, inferentially, the social and moral betterment of the Dogrib people through abandonment of "bad" or injurious practices.
Drinking and card playing were the two evils that the Alberta Prophet and his disciple Jack, and also Chi, excoriated when calling upon the people to reform. Idleness and the neglect of necessary tasks due to incessant card playing had been of concern to thoughtful Dogribs for several years. But they especially acknowledged the prophets' proscription of drinking as addressing a true evil afflicting Dogrib society. The alcohol problem had been mounting since 1959. Before that, the possession or consumption of any form of alcohol was illegal for persons of legal Indian status ("treaty Indians") in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.). Perforce, alcohol consumption by Dogribs was almost entirely limited to illicit home brew. The 1959 rescission of the N.W.T. law prohibiting the purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages by Indians was followed within a year by the opening of the road between Rae and Yellowknife, where hard liquor and beer could be bought for immediate consumption or transport back to Rae ( Helm and Lurie 1966:79-81).1
Within the year before the Alberta Prophet's first visit to Rae at Christmas 1966, three Dogrib men, fathers of families, were lost to alcohol-related deaths. One of the men was from Marten Lake. With the Dogrib community in shock from the deaths, the message of the Alberta