Gloria Bird realizes that for generations Native Americans have had drinking problems, and she also realizes that it is difficult for native writers to accurately represent our communities without exploiting them.(G. Bird) However, Bird criticizes Alexie of embellishing or exaggerating the Native Americans despair. Alexie cannot ignore the alcohol situation when describing Native American culture, but Alexie does not need to make alcoholism a common trait amongst almost every Indian on the reservation and other reservations.
Birds statement concerning Alexies embellishment of Native American despair due to alcoholism is an accurate interpretation of Reservation Blues. In Reservation Blues, almost every Native American is an alcoholic. Two of the main characters, Victor and Junior, spend all of their money on booze and get wasted on a regular basis. After the tavern had closed, Junior and Victor climbed into the water truck and passed out.(p.24) It is reasonable for there to be a few drunks, but Alexie introduces or makes references to too many Indians who either lost everything or their lives because of alcohol. When Thomas father Samuel is introduced he is drunk, and Alexie explains that this is normal, for Thomashad lost count of the number of times hed saved his father Once, a month, he bailed his father out of jail for drunk and disorderly behavior.(p.95) Even though Thomas didnt drink, he was always around drunks for even his father was a drunk. Even Thomas mother drank for most of her adult life. Chess asked Thomas if his mother drink when she was alive, and Thomas responded with She did. Bu she quit. She was sober when she died.(p.118) Thomas goes on to say that she quit because of an incident during a New Years Eve party. Dad got real drunk, kicked everybody out, and then took all the furniture out on the front lawn, and burned it.(p.118)
Alexie does not just mention that Samuel is a drunk; he goes further to say that Samuel was an extremely talented basketball player, but alcohol caused Samuel to throw his basketball future away. Even when Samuel was a young man he was drinking, when the tribal cop, Wilson, asked Samuel and Lester, You two been drinking?(p.102) Lester responds with Ive been drinking since I was fiveKindergarten is hard on a man.(p.102) Lester is another secondary character that is introduced who happens to be a drunk, for that is how he got his name Lester FallsApart. Lester FallsApart, the most accomplished drunk on the Spokane Reservation,(p.151) However, It could be worse for Thomas, because both Victors and Juniors fathers were not just drunks but were also dead.
In Reservation Blues, not much information is given about Victors parents; there are only references to the death of Victors father in Arizona and the simple fact that his mother is dead. The reason his father died in Arizona is that he could not bear any longer to live on the Spokane Reservation after what he did. One night he got drunk and accidentally set the house on fire and not everyone could be saved. Juniors parents didnt just come home drunk; once even they drove to the tavern with their children in the backseats. They would then go in the tavern for hours drinking while their children were still in the car. Finally, Juniors parents were at a party, and on their ride home they got in a car wreck and died.
Alcoholism was not just a Spokane problem; it was part of every Native Americans life, because even the Native Americans that werent drunks themselves had either a close relative or a close friend that was a drunk. Chess and Checkers were Flathead Indians, and though they were not alcoholics their father was. Hed come home all drunk and screaming. Be talking about how he was a radio man during World War II.(p.119) Chess and Checkers father was neither old enough nor of the right tribe to have been in World War II.
It is understandable that Native Americans would have a higher percentage of Alcoholics than other Americans because that has been the trend for generations. It would be wrong for Alexie to avoid the subject, because alcohol plays a major role on reservations