FIRE WATER- HOW ALCOHOL IS KILLING OUR FIRST NATION PEOPLE
I recently read a very small powerful book, "Fire Water, How Alcohol is killing my people ( and yours) by Harold Johnson. He is a Cree from Northern Saskatchewan whose father died when he was eight years of age. A multi talented man who served in the Canadian Navy, trapper, miner and lumberjack. At the
age of 25 he went to the universities of Saskatchewan and Harvard to earn law degrees. He has
worked as a defense and Crown Prosecutor defending and prosecuting mostly First Nation Peoples.
Fire Water was the name given by Indians to the liquor that the fur traders traded whisky for furs to determine if the liquid was diluted. The simple test was to spit out the whisky into a fire and see if it exploded into flames.
From Haroldís vast experience with the courts for over twenty years he estimated that 95% of the
people charged and convicted of crimes were intoxicated at the time they committed the offences.
We have to ask ourselves: "Are we drunks because we are poor, or are we poor because we drink?"
"Do we drink because we don`t have a job or do we not have a job because we drink?" " Do we drink because we come from broken homes or do we have broken homes because we drink?."
It is very easy for Indians to play the victim card blaming the settlers, residential schools regime and a host of other real or imagined causes for their troubles. Hard to sit down and blame yourself for the bad choices you have made to excuse your negative behaviour.
In the world of medicine we can look at illness as something that has befallen us or too often look for a magic prescriptions written by our amazing physicians to help alleviate all of our problems.
Alcoholism, Obesity, Heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Lung Cancer are now conventionally labeled as diseases. A friend of mine who is a Geneticist told me that he did the numbers on himself and found
that his excess weight was three percent related to his genes and ninety-seven percent because of his choice of decadent chocolate cake. Many so called victims have no fault provisions built into their memory base to not to admit that they have contributed to their ailments.
It is amazing what some people do to themselves knowingly. They volunteer to embrace bad choices in the hope that there will not be no direct negative consequences to their actions.
I believe that one has to be taught to play the victim role learning from a young age that there are
always be mom/ dad/, physicians/ society to have the ability to find the magic answers to all life`s
To many people alcohol is an every day thing. It is a glass of wine before and during supper or a beer or two or three watching the hockey games. The social economic status determines how much they spend on their beverages of choice. Simple, the higher they are in the social/economic status the more expensive bottles of Seagram Crown Royal that they drink.
I learned very early in life that when I fell down my father would tell me: "To come over to him and he would pick me up". I always did what he told me and have never ever played the victim card.
A while back I had the pleasure to interview Suzie Mathias who is a Thalidomide survivor who lives in London. I asked her if she had any complaints? "People tend to complain too much and do too little".
No anger at the prescription of Thalidomide pills that her mother took that left Suzie unable to take care of her daily needs or never ever been able to walk. Each morning you can see her churning up the Y
pool for two hours a day; then you can ask yourself why do you complain ?
It amazes me that some of our Jewish friendís fathersí and motherís survived the Holocaust and yet
they never ever complained that they were victims of circumstance. Over six million Jewish innocent
men and women along with their children died in the oven in the Second World War. Never victims, the survivors, lived to introduce the State of Israel to the world.
Many of our First Nation people are proud outstanding members of the Canadian society; not worried
that they are called "Apples" red on the outside and behaving white on the inside. They have a proud heritage and need not be victims of what was in the past
In Nietzscheís "Manís Search For Meaning" famous speech was eloquent "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." Like Diogenese with his magic lantern we too search for truth.
Len Lesser is an education/career counselor in Dorchester, Ontario