By Carole A. Barrett, Harvey J. Markowitz (eds.)
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Additional resources for American Indian Culture (Magill's Choice), 3v
By the end of the prehistoric period, the Indians were cultivating a wide variety of crops. The most important of these, squashes, beans, and corn, had all come from central Mexico. , but in time came to constitute an important part of the Indian diet. Their usefulness depended on the possession of pottery vessels in which they could be cooked. 8 / Agriculture Without a doubt, the most important Indian crop was maize, a cultivated version of the wild plant teosinte, a native of the central Mexican highlands.
The Lakota Sioux called alcohol “the magic water,” for example, and some scholars have noted a link between drinking liquor until drunk and the traditional Indian practice of going on a vision quest seeking wisdom and strength through fasting, meditation, and prayer until a state of altered consciousness is achieved. Alco- 16 / Alcoholism hol intoxication may also have been considered akin to being influenced or possessed by a supernatural being. Many tribal political and religious leaders soon recognized the danger that alcohol posed to traditional culture.
Average. In 1986, recognizing the severity of the problem, Congress enacted the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Those who have studied Indian drinking generally believe that alcohol abuse among Native Americans results from the same factors that lead to high levels of alcoholism among other populations: It is a means of coping with unemployment, poverty, and alienation. The economic situation of American Indians, particularly those on isolated reservations, is grim compared with that of most Americans.