Alaska Natives Combating Substance Abuse and Related Violence Through Self Healing: A Report for the People (1999)

Bernie Segal, PhD 
Donna Burgess, PhD 
Denny DeGross, MA
Carl Hild, MS 
Brian Saylor, PhD, MPH


This 120 page report was funded by the Alaska Federation of Natives. It reflects the six contributing authors’ combined personal and professional knowledge and experience about events affecting Alaska Natives. Its purpose is to inform readers about alcohol-related violence, why it happens, its effects, and the ways to reduce it.  Although this report focuses on Alaska Natives, the discussion can apply to all people.


The report also discusses acculturation changes, and describes the effects of cultural change experienced by Alaska Natives. The relationship among acculturation stress, substance abuse, and violence is described. Of primary importance is the recognition of how loss of culture is interwoven with substance abuse and violence, and how vital cultural values and tradition are to the integrity of Alaska Native communities. In learning from Rupert Ross (1992), the following question applies: How does the unwillingness of the non-Native society in Alaska to acknowledge that Alaska’s indigenous people have different values and institutions that have not lost their relevance and application despite over a hundreds years of cultural and technological advances, bear upon their affairs with indigenous people?


The answer, again learning from Rupert Ross, is that as long as the government and the agencies of Alaska, as well as federal authorities, fail to recognize that Alaska Natives still value their traditional practices and institutions, and as long as non-Natives insist that Alaska Natives abandon their ancestral heritage and embrace western ways, cultural stress will continue and Alaska Natives will be vulnerable to its effects. Ross (1992) also stated that, “And so long as the government and the officials . . . continue to act as if the original people are the only ones in need of instruction and improvement, so long will suspicion and distrust continue” (p  ix).


A large section of the report deals with this situation, and talks about how the non-Native community can begin supporting Native communities to regain traditions and to achieve healing. Neither the Native nor non-Native worlds can live apart. Each has to learn from one another.


The final AFN report is available for viewing in pdf format: Alaska Natives Combating Substance Abuse and Related Violence through Self-Healing: A Report for the People (574 KB, pdf)