Manataka™ American Indian Council
by: Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press, August 2008
Alcohol-related deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives are at almost 12 percent, three times the percentage in the general population. (Picture: Alyssa R.)
Washington - Almost 12 percent of the deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives are alcohol-related - more than three times the percentage in the general population, a new federal report says.
The report released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found 11.7 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives between 2001 and 2005 were alcohol-related, compared with 3.3 percent for the U.S. as a whole.
Dwayne Jarman, a CDC epidemiologist who works for the Indian Health Service and is one of the study's authors, said it is the first national survey that measures American Indian deaths due to alcohol. It should be a "call to action" for federal, state, local and tribal governments, he said.
The researchers obtained their statistics by analyzing death certificates over the four-year period.
The two leading causes of alcohol-related deaths among Indians were traffic accidents and alcoholic liver disease, each of which cause more than a quarter of the 1,514 alcohol-related deaths over the four-year period.
Also listed are homicide (6.6 percent of alcohol-related deaths), suicide (5.2 percent) and injuries in falls (2.2 percent).
There may be many more alcohol-related deaths than the study shows, in part because the CDC analysis did not count deaths related to some diseases for which alcohol is believed to be an important risk factor, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and colon cancer.
The greatest number of tribal alcohol-related deaths - about a third of the total - occurred in the Northern Plains, where reservations are remote and often destitute, the study said. The lowest number of deaths were in Alaska.
Jarman said the study did not look at why there may be more deaths in the Plains but said it is consistent with previous studies.
"It may be a function of social perceptions of alcohol in that particular region," he said. The report did not break down the numbers by tribe.
The study said more than 68 percent of the Indians whose deaths were attributed to alcohol were men, and 66 percent were people younger than 50 years old. Seven percent were less than 20 years old.
The study recommends "culturally appropriate clinical interventions" to reducing excessive drinking and better integration between tribal health care centers and tribal courts, which often deal with alcohol-related crimes.
Donovan Antelope, a spokesman for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, said alcoholism has been a problem for more than a century with many Indian populations.
"It has had a very negative impact on our day-to day life," he said, adding that the tribe has started promoting alcohol-free events.
In general, American Indians suffer much higher death rates of most leading causes than the rest of the country. Besides alcoholism, drug use, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and suicide also are high.
Alcoholics from all walks of life are welcome to receive residential alcohol abuse treatment
at many alcohol rehab centers.
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"Take away your lands, lose your pride. Be fed with fried, white flower and other poor nutritious foods from your government. Have your treaties ignored awhile you are penned in on a reservation with 80% unemployment and you too will resort to drugs and alcohol to escape. ~Bill Marder, Author, Indians of the Americas
"The government (Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs) is responsible for promoting alcohol and drug use on reservations. They directly and indirectly license liquor dealers and provide little law enforcement money to combat illicit drug use. Medical facilities and schools on reservations are traditionally under-funded. The BIA lost (stole) billions in Indian Trust funds and systematically prevent free enterprise that effectively creates high unemployment. The "keep 'em drunk, stupid and poor" attitude in the BIA dates back to the time the agency was created in 1824. If this is not genocide, what is it? ~Lee Standing Bear Moore, Author, Manataka
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