Six Nation Indian’s Proneness to Drink

The Indian Law, it is well known, puts a restraint, not only upon the purchase of liquor by the Indian, but upon its sale to him by the liquor-seller, or its supply, indeed, in any way, by any one. It forbids, as well, the introducing or harboring of it, in any shape, under any plea, on the Reserve. The law, in this respect, frequently proves a dead letter, since, where the Indian has not the assurance and hardihood to boldly demand the liquor from the hotel-keeper, or where the latter, imbued with a wholesome fear of the penalty for contravening the law, refrains from giving it, the agency of degraded whites is readily secured by the Indian, and, with their connivance, the unlawful object compassed. Of course the white abettor in these cases risks trifling, if any, publicity in the matter, and is inspired with the less fear of detection. There are some few hotel-keepers who, though they more than suspect the purpose to which the liquor these whites are demanding is to be applied, permit rapacity to overpower righteous compunction or scruple, and lend themselves, likewise, though indirectly, to the law’s infraction. Happily, the penalty is now so heavy ($300) that the evil is, I think, being got under control.

The effect of drink on the Indian is: to dethrone his; reason; cloud, even narcotize, his reasoning faculties; annul his self-control; confine and fetter all the gentler, enkindle and set ablaze, all the baser, emotions; of his nature, inciting him to acts lustful and bestial; and, with direful transforming power, to make the man the fiend, to leave him, in short, the mere sport of demoniac passion. It may be thought that this is an overdrawn picture, and that, even if it were true, which I aver that it is, to have withheld a part of its terribleness would be the wiser course. I wish, however, in exposing all its frightful features, to secure the pointing of a moral to all who lend themselves to the draughting of such a picture, or, in any way, hold in favor the draughts which lead to its draughting. Let not the Indian, then, resent this picturing of him in such unpleasing and repugnant light, but let him rather apply and use the lesson it is sought to teach, that it may turn to his enduring advantage. Let him overmaster the enslaving passion; let him foreswear the tempting indulgence; let him recoil from the envenomed cup, which savors of the hellish breath and the ensnaring craft of the Evil One, ever seeking to draw chains of Satanic forging about him. The Indian will plead utter obliviousness of the fracas, following some drunken bout, and during the progress of which the death-stroke has been dealt to some unhappy brother. He will disavow all recollection of the apparently systematic doing to death, when drunk, under circumstances of the most revolting atrocity, of an unfortunate wife.

Though the proximate result of drink is with the Indian more alarming than with the white, the ultimate evils and sorrows wrought by continued excess in drink are, of course, identical in both cases: moral sensibilities blunted; manhood degraded; mind wrecked; worldly substance dissipated; health shattered; strength sapped; every mendacious and tortuous bent of one’s nature stimulated, and given free scope.

Mackenzie, J. B. A Treatise of the Six Nation Indians. Guardian Printing Office. 1882.

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