Settler stories of alcohol


in Canada, Psychology

Alcohol is not just in our stories — the stories that kiciwamanawak [Cree for white settler Canadians] first told about us that some of us continue to tell and believe. You see, alcohol is also in kiciwamanawak stories, the stories they tell about themselves. However, it is told much differently: they are never “the lazy, drunk, white person” in their own stories about alcohol.

To many kiciwamanawak alcohol is an everyday thing. It’s a glass of wine with supper, or a beer or two while watching the game on television, or a glass of whiskey in the evening. To them, alcohol is natural, normal, and even necessary. In their stories about alcohol, their social position determines the amount they spend on alcohol. The higher they are in their social and class structure, the more expensive the alcohol they must consume.

In their story, if a person does not drink, it is automatically assumed they do not drink because they have a religious reason, or, more often, it’s assumed it’s because they can’t handle it. Only alcoholics in their story do not drink. Healthy, normal people in that story often consume alcohol daily. Every significant event is marked by alcohol: birthdays, marriages, graduations, a sports team winning (or losing), and even death is saluted with a drink, a toast. To not drink in the kiciwamanawak story is to cut oneself off from important parts of the story. Their story and the alcohol story are so entangled that one becomes the other. The kiciwamanawak story becomes the alcohol story and the alcohol story becomes the kiciwamanawak story.

Johnson, Harold R. Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (and Yours). 2016. University of Regina Press; Regina.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

alena November 22, 2016 at 11:46 pm

That is very interesting; a celebration of life for the whites and a source of shame for natives.

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