Chippewa and majority alcoholism in the twin cities: A comparison

Joseph Westermeyer

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35 Scopus citations


Chippewa people comprise most of the American Indian population in Minnesota. Especially in the last two decades, they have migrated by the thousands from northern lakes and forests to the Minneapolis area. Public drunkenness is a frequent characteristic among them, and alcohol-related problems bring them to hospital in increasing numbers. Chippewa drinkers are popularly considered not to have drinking problems like “true alcoholics.” Despite the variety of alcoholism classifications presently available, however, none are based on sociocultural parameters. Thus, it was of interest to see whether alcoholism might indeed vary along ethnic lines. Accordingly, 30 Chippewa with alcohol-related problems requiring hospital admission were intensively studied at University of Minnesota Hospitals in Minneapolis. At the same time, data were collected on 200 consecutive patients admitted to the alcoholism unit at St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital. Variables included race, age, sex, marital status, employment, withdrawal symptoms at time of admission, and serologic tests for hepatic function and nutritional status. Both marked similarities and marked disparities occurred between the Chippewa and majority alcoholics. The similarities suggested that alcoholism is no less morbid an entity among Chippewa people than among the general population. Differences appeared related to a variety of sociocultural factors, which are presented in the paper, rather than to a separate “Indian” form of alcoholism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-327
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1972
Externally publishedYes


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