During the 1950's suicide among natives did not differ much from very much from the rest of the nation. During the 1950's alcohol was introduced to most native villages. Suicide, sex crimes, homicide and other crimes among native people began to climb. During this time much of our own culture was taken from us. I have heard numerous stories from elders and others of being beaten for speaking their language, of being washed in kerosene, and of being sexually abused by the priests that were brought to teach them what they thought we should know. I am going to be 31 years old and never knew of Ellam-yua until about two weeks ago.
While the introduction to the western ways may have improved life in some ways, like giving us a longer life span, homes that are easier to heat and education, it has also destroyed who we are. Natives were forced to forget their own beliefs and learn what others thought we should know.
Today nearly 80% of deaths among natives is alcohol related, despite many efforts to keep it out of many villages. Kotlik is a dry village. However, with an unemployment rate of 34.6% and the a ca pita income of $9,755, the sale of alcohol is quick and easy money in a village where a quart of uht milk is over $3 and where heating fuel and gasoline prices are over $6 a gallon. The sale of one fifth of alcohol is usually over $150.
I want to make it clear that alcohol is not our culture, it is a problem that we are facing.It is so new to us that we have yet to figure out to overcome alcoholism, but I have faith that we will.
In fact Caucasian people consume more alcohol than any other people in this nation, so to sit and say that our culture is destroying is just plain idiotic. It is the DESTRUCTION of our culture and the FORCED INTRODUCTION of another that has lead to these issues that we face. Our beliefs and way of life was taken from us, another was forced upon us and then we saw a huge increase in social problems.
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey, 56.7 percent of whites describe themselves as "current drinkers," compared to 42.8 percent of African Americans, 41.7 percent of Hispanics, 37.6 percent of Asians, and 47.6 percent of multiracial people.
"National surveys show differences in alcohol consumption across ethnic groups, including patterns of drinking associated with greater risk for the adverse effects of alcohol (e.g., binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion). According to past-30-day estimates of drinking provided by the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (SAMHSA 2008c), any alcohol use in adults (i.e., ages 18 or older) is most prevalent for Whites."(NIAAA Publications)
" Self-reported rates of DUI were highest among White men" (Driving under the influence)
So we were forced to learn what others believe in, and yes it has become a problem for us. Alcohol is so new to us that we have yet to find a way to deal with it. I do however believe that we are doing everything we can to address this problem, and WILL overcome this plague introduced to us.
A reader also stated that Alaska Natives make up most of the inmate population, and that he knew this for a fact because he worked there. However according to state.ak.us Caucasian people make up the majority of the inmate population. 50% of the felony population in Alaska is made up of Caucasian people as well (http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/20/4winter2004/c_felonyprocess.html)
So there you go. Alcohol is not our culture. Our culture is much richer than that and cannot be learned by being a prison guard in a jail.