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Stereotype of the Month Entry

In the last few days National Chief Matthew Coon Come (Assembly of First Nations) has made some remarks to the effect that all other Native Chiefs in Canada need to sober up! (For the full story, see the Halifax Herald article.)

His remarks were made at some kind of Healing Conference and now they have been taken out of context by the mainstream media. He is supported by another Native politician who is published in a province-wide paper in British Columbia. His remarks are even more inflammatory. I mean, they talk about alcoholism in Native communities as if it exists in a vacuum. Real anti-Indian gibberish from these yokels.

Anyways, these sentiments have been exploited by the racist mainstream papers, TV up here. I think it's damaging for our professed Native leaders to endorse these kinds of stereotypes (i.e. the drunken Indian, the bingo addict) without deconstructing them. If they don't then they're just talking out of their ass. Matthew Coon Come should know better! I just wish our 'leaders' shouldn't give the media more fuel for their racist fire.

P.S. I think your website rocks!


Another correspondent has replied to this correspondent's remarks. Here are his comments—with my responses, of course:

>> Over the past 10 years or so there has been way too much "de-constructing" and whining and not nearly enough self-criticism and action. Yes we have many sober chiefs and elders who make good role models, but anyone who refuses to talk openly about the very real and very big problem of ongoing active addictions amongst our "leaders" is just adding to the problem. <<

Talking about alcoholism accurately and talking about it inaccurately are two different things.

>> Cone-Come's remarks are not the problem, and I don't give a flying fuck what the white media say or how they "construe" such comments. <<

I suspect they don't care that you don't care.

>> Why do you care so much? <<

I don't think posting one person's commentary on Cone-Come, without commenting on it myself, constitutes caring "so much." As for why I care about stereotyping in general, go to Quotes on Native Stereotyping for starters.

>> I also don't care whether the problem of alcoholism and addictions is worse or better amongst white folks. That's their problem. Our problem is all that concerns me and it will not be tackled through denial or attacking those who have the balls to acknowledge this very big problem. <<

Who's denying it? I don't deny that alcoholism is a problem among Indians. I do deny the stereotype that all or most Indians are alcoholics.

>> I say we need to publicly denounce and name those chiefs and other so-called "leaders" who refuse to work on their addictions. <<

Ever hear of Alcoholics Anonymous? I'm not an expert on alcoholism, but I'm guessing that denouncing people is the exact opposite of the methods proven to work. It's likely to cause anger and recriminations without solving anything. In other words, if you think you can shame alcoholics into changing, you don't know much about alcoholism.

Again, I agree Indians and others should address the problems of alcoholism. The question is how to do it, not whether.


>> Despite this, it is a fact that a very large proportion of Chiefs and other "leaders" spend a huge amount of their time partying and even going to important meetings drunk, stoned or hung over. <<

The question is: How large is "large"? Coon-Come made his claim and other leaders denied it. Unless he's right and everyone else is wrong, he exaggerated the problem, however real and extensive it is. That would make it an example of stereotyping.

>> I can assure you that denial is a HUGE problem. There is a direct corelation between sobriety and serious, radical leadership. <<

I don't doubt it. The people who responded to Coon-Come also were recovering alcoholics. They admitted their problem and the problem in general, but still felt Coon-Come exaggerated it. For instance:

"His statement was very unfair and cannot be backed up by fact," said Chief Paul, who also serves as chief of the Millbrook reserve near Truro.

"It's tough enough to fight the stereotype of the drunken Indian without our national chief coming out and saying things that aren't true."

Until Coon-Come provides the facts justifying his claim—e.g., a list of everyone he thinks is a drunk—I'll have to go with the idea that he stereotyped his people. In other words, he exaggerated a real problem for effect.

>> There is a fine line between helping addicts and drunks to achieve sobriety and being a co-dependent. <<

The typical model for helping addicts involves a private intervention, not a public shaming.

>> For those who refuse to accept treatment for their addictions, the best thing we can do for them is expose them and fire them. <<

Or you could fire them without exposing them and deal with their addictions in private. Again, I believe that would be the standard model. I had a girlfriend who was a recovering alcoholic, so I know something about the subject.


Related links
Drunken Indians

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