Native Americans do not use or abuse alcohol more than whites do. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
Researchers at the University of Arizona have found that Native Americans abstain from alcohol far more often than do whites, that fewer Native Americans than whites are light or moderate alcohol users and that the two groups engage in binge and heavy alcohol consumption at pretty much the same rates.
This is the first study to look at the alcohol use in the Native American population as a whole.
Looking at responses from more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 white Americans who took part in a federal government survey between 2009 and 2013 pertaining to their alcohol use in the past month, the study brought to light the following results:
- Almost 60% of Native Americans abstained from alcohol, compared with 43% of whites;
- 14.5% of Native Americans were light or moderate alcohol users, compared with 32.7% of whites;
- 17.3% of Native Americans were binge alcohol consumers, compared with 16.7% of whites;
- And 8.3% of Native Americans were heavy alcohol users, compared with 7.5% of whites.
Tanya H. Lee writes in her article about the study:
Erroneous beliefs about excessive [alcohol use] among Native Americans go back at least as far as the late 1700s, when the Catholic priest Abbé Belmont described the Ottawa as ‘passionately attached’ to brandy, according to the study.
And the bias continues to this day in movies, television and newspaper articles, extending even into the Indian Health Service.”