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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Donna J. Hess


Indian alcoholism has a history that goes back to first European contacts. The devastating effects it has had on Indian people equal and has outlasted any disease brought into this country. Like many other diseases, Indian people had no tolerance for alcohol-related abnormalities brought on by abusive use of alcohol. As if to quicken their end, they offered little resistance and were easily addicted. With the loss of their culture and identity, they never had the motivation to go beyond surviving. The First Nation people, usually last in socioeconomic developments find themselves first in something, alcoholism, and its consequences. Tribal people still maintain cultural traditions such as the extended family. That creates the situation where virtually everyone on the reservation is affected by alcoholism. Some efforts have been directed to the Indian alcohol problem, but most fail because a necessary cultural component is usually not contained in the program. This study is about how the some Dakota people are attempting to address their own social ills, including alcoholism. The key to understanding the problem is to first understand the native culture and lifestyle and how he makes sense out of his world. The Dakota people like many others are experiencing a resurgence of cultural traditions and heritage. This renewed interest was prompted by concerns about the social deterioration and hopelessness of the people. There developed a generalized belief that if the traditional values of the past could be brought back, the people would receive hope and a new way of life built on values and norms that were once the foundation of a traditional society. The return of traditional practices and ceremonies provided support for these beliefs and values. The most significant of these practices is the Sun Dance. Therefore an ethnographic field study was conducted to more closely examine this phenomenon. To enhance and guide the study, a theory on value-oriented movements provided a pattern and system of analysis. The ethnographic study provided an in-depth observation of the Sun Dance and other traditional ceremonies and the people who practice them. In order to provide a base for understanding, an extensive background is provided on the history and culture of the Dakota. There is also pertinent information on Indian alcoholism presented. The intent of the study was to provide a Dakota perspective along with the data and information. This was accomplished through interviews, observation and participant observation. The results of the study suggests there is a movement based on a generalized belief that returning to past traditions and values provide a solution for a significant number of Dakota people and the problem of alcoholism.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Alcoholism -- Prevention
Indians of North America -- Alcohol use -- Prevention
Dakota Indians -- Social life and customs
Dakota Indians -- Lake Traverse Indian Reservation (N.D. and S.D.) -- Rites and ceremonies
Social movements




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