Our people have always had some sort of stigmatism, such as lazy drunken Indians, welfare recipients, and burdens to society. And this is often used as an excuse to garner more moolah from taxpayers to wrong rights and this becomes the state of mind for many who are familiar to past and present Aboriginal communities’ problems with alcohol, especially for those who live on reserve and in many cases off reserve, namely: us.
Political climates of the past were mainly one-sided in favour of prohibition and the idea of mixing alcohol with an Indian to get more (in other words, get ripped-off drunk blind) for all kinds of negotiations; in the past for a few more sips of rum, the winner of the negotiation was the sober one, leaving some poor folks scratching their sore heads the next day wondering why that musket looked so rusty? It still happens today, folks, except now it’s legitimized by arbitrary laws written up by your peers in the form of band by-laws.
For example, way back when Geronimo was around, signs were posted around areas where people could read (like the old West) worth crap, to not give Indians alcohol (amongst other things like access to capital and lawyers). It’s like saying, don’t feed the bears, they might get a little rowdy and rip your arm off for dessert if you do so.
Finally in the late 50s (or early 60s), Aboriginals could sip wine or beer in a bar without selling their band numbers to scrupulous tavern owners for a six-pack and 20 cigarettes. Now in today’s world, the Indian is not looked at like a bear on a financial rip roar, but as your legal peer in a bar, but not on reserve.
Yet still today, you are guilty of breaking the law if associated with alcohol only, and often those associations come with baggage worthy of Bangladesh back in the day when we had to help them with the aid of the Beatles…wait a minute, I’m losing track here, but you know what I mean.
Up in the Great White North, where I live, a metre away my brethren Inuit can casually sip beer, whilst I must look over my shoulder for breaking the local zoo law for not feeding the bears lest they get rowdy.
But the reality is folks, that stigmatism is still reinforced vigorously in defense of the drunken Indian syndrome, when it is really about losing rights as an individual to make a conscious decision, to lose yourself in drunken stupour, because you’re already guilty, or enjoy the freedoms that other Quebecers and Canadians enjoy, legitimately controlled by laws honed over centuries of drinking and enjoy yourself without hurting others.
Of course, drinking does have side effects if consumed excessively, but who would have to in a legal environment, does it affect everyone who doesn’t have a choice, or those who do have a choice?
Whatever the case may be, I think it’s high time that the Indian be decriminalized and de-stigmatized because it sure is hurting our image and esteem.