White Man’s Water: The Politics of Sobriety in a Native American Community

May 15th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-4: Investing in Education, Empowering Tribal Communities, Media Reviews

WHITE MAN'S WATERBy Erica Prussing
The University of Arizona Press (2011)

Review by Dr. Jerry Worley

In this ethnographic contribution to health research, Erica Prussing provides an engaging exploration of Northern Cheyenne women’s perspectives on sobriety and how this subjective concept is framed in their ever-changing world.

For decades, Prussing has labored over issues of drinking, sobriety, and gender while conducting research in and around the Northern Cheyenne communities of Lame Deer, Busby, Birney, Muddy, Rabbit Town, and other hamlets and isolated homes that dot southeastern Montana.

White Man’s Water is a valuable scholarly ethnography, yet Prussing’s interviews with Cheyenne women also allow lay readers to become engaged in the stories of people who are attempting to find their place in a location where culture changes daily. The summary of Cheyenne history is outstanding and Prussing’s study of recent adjustments in views on sobriety is even better. For example, Cheyenne women are attracted to the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous more so than men. Why? Because this concept is very much in alignment with their traditional roles as caregivers in the Cheyenne world. Prussing’s book is a mustread for any ethnographer and for anyone interested in the politics of sobriety.

Dr. Jerry Worley is an associate professor of education in the Education Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. Worley’s emphasis in scholarship involves the human variable in teaching.

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