Fighting Firewater Fictions: Moving Beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations


407 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8985-2
DDC 362.292'089'97071




Reviewed by Marilyn Mardiros

Marilyn Mardiros is an associate professor of health sciences at the
University of Ottawa.


In this book, Richard Thatcher deconstructs the stereotype of Aboriginal
drinking, peeling back the layers of dependence that contribute to the
firewater complex.

The enduring stereotype of the “drunken Indian” is rooted in the
firewater theory, the view that Aboriginal people are biologically
predisposed to alcoholism. Because no convincing evidence exists to
support that view, the theory became the firewater myth. Yet the theory
persists in the firewater complex, a set of beliefs about the
vulnerability of Aboriginal people to alcohol and the negative
behaviours (binge drinking, etc.) that result from this dependency.
Along with the rest of society, Aboriginal people have internalized this

Thatcher argues persuasively that people need a reason to remain sober,
and that—in the case of Aboriginal people—the most effective
prevention strategies will be created through education, training, and
economic development. This fine work will be of particular interest to
students, policy analysts, and those providing services and programs to
Aboriginal people both on- and off-reserve.


Thatcher, Richard W., “Fighting Firewater Fictions: Moving Beyond the Disease Model of Alcoholism in First Nations,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,