How a People Die


207 pages
ISBN 1-55017-106-2
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by S. Barry Cottam

S. Barry Cottam is the editor and publisher of SSHARE and a historical
consultant in Ottawa.


First published in 1970, this polemical novel is a fictionalization of
the author’s thesis that the sad demise of so many Native individuals
and communities is the direct result of the lifting of restrictions on
alcohol consumption that followed the return of Native veterans from
World War II. Its characters include a chief overwhelmed by the decline
of his community, RCMP officers struggling with the ineffectiveness of
the court system, and an Indian Agent who is pitted against (usually
liberal) social workers and bureaucrats. Fry presents his thesis
clearly, drawing upon numerous studies on Native communities, one of
which provided the model for the fictitious village of Kwatsi, the
setting of his novel. The sole difference between successful and
devastated communities, Fry argues, is the decision taken about alcohol
consumption. Whether you agree or disagree with his thesis, Fry has
produced a thought-provoking treatment of the problem. Included in this
reissue are a new introduction and afterword by the author.


Fry, Alan., “How a People Die,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,