"the message" penetrated to a desperate situation
even the Mounties couldn't handle
Indian Named "Tall Man"
by Richard H. Whittenore
State of Maine Division of Alcoholic Rehabilitation
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., November 1962
years ago a government law enforcement official in Ottawa,
Canada wrote a letter to the Canadian Mounted Police,
Provisional Headquarters in New Brunswick, requesting
an explanation concerning the sudden decrease in Indian
arrests for intoxication within the Malaseet Reserve in
that immediate area. The Provincial Officer in charge
reported that many of his worst offenders had joined an
Alcoholics Anonymous group on the Reserve. This was the
truth and the only explanation he could offer.
Malaseet (or Malecite) Indian settled in Tobique Point
on the St. John River as late as 1755. They were a part
of the Abinaki (or Abenaque) Nation closely related to
the Tarratines in Maine who in 1669 began to break up
into smaller tribes and moved eastward after a series
of wars with the Mohawks.
the whit explorers and trappers brought rum to the Indians
in the early to Mid-Seventeenth Century, the use of alcohol
has presented new and ever increasing problems to this
society. When considering the events to follow, it should
not seem strange or unusual that the Indian would turn
as a companion to the use of alcohol. Is not liquor a
companion for those filled with bitterness after being
robbed, conquered, suppressed and confined, while at the
same time being Christianized and civilized by those who
have hurt them?
through the years poverty and sickness have weakened the
spirit and thinned out the ranks of the various Tarratine
Tribes in Maine and New Brunswick. The shame of a once
proud race being forced to accept meager charity has been
hard to accept. They ask themselves "Is this what
Christianity and civilization has to offer a peaceful
tribe who has lived comfortably off the land?"
takes several generations to change the customs, traditions
and culture of an ethnic group. In 1755 the Indian Brave
was a protector, hunter, and warrior. The squaw carried
the water, tanned hides, and made baskets. The brave had
no conception of what it meant to work for wages. A brave
who worked was a "squaw." The white man came,
conquered and confined the Indian. With rum, gold and
deceit, he tried to get the brave to work. Here we have
conflict, shame, poverty and hatred. What a breeding ground
for alcoholism! And this has been the situation for four
generations. Under similar pressures and forced changes,
groups in any race no doubt would look for relief from
their misery. They would reach for the nearest and easiest
temporary or permanent escape.
Man (for anonymity), a full blooded member of the Malaseet
Tribe, 68 years of age, married with a grown family, heard
about Alcoholics Anonymous through one of his sons who
was working in Connecticut. Tall Man for many years had
caused much trouble for his family, his tribe, and the
law enforcement officers in the area because of his "excessive
drinking." Here is a brief outline of Tall Man's
story and how AA came to the Reserve.
first heard of AA six years ago through my son who became
a member in Connecticut. Before my first meeting I thought
drinking was a daily necessity. Though I had often heard
of AA, I felt it was not for me although I could see others
needed it. At my first meeting I knew there was something
for me. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but
I knew I had a chance. Listening to the speakers, and
along with the fellowship of AA, I had no feeling of inferiority.
I was accepted from the start as a sick man, and all the
members of the group were there to help me stay sober
if I accepted the fact of being an alcoholic.
first contact with AA was at the Fort Fairfield Group
in Maine, just a few miles from the New Brunswick border.
After being sober for six months in AA, I began to understand
that this program could benefit many on my Reserve. So
with the help of the AA groups in Maine and New Brunswick
(along-the-border groups), an open meeting was held on
the Reserve on May 3, 1958. The first reaction to AA coming
to the Reserve was one of confusion, but many became members
from the first meeting. It was no problem to get a group
started on the Reserve, but I had to have help from the
other groups to get AA across to many. Our meetings are
run exactly the same as they are on the outside. We found
we did not need any special presentation. I am happy to
stat that in 1958 we started eighteen members and we now
year I make trips to the different Reserves in Canada.
A group has been started in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, and
a trip to Eskasoni was made by another member of our group
in October, 1960. I plan to keep on spreading the AA message
which I must do in order to keep sober myself. I will
go anywhere, when I can.
general standard of living on the Malaseet Reserve has
definitely been raised -- Improvements in homes, encouragement
in education for our children, and an increase in church
attendance, not to mention many other personal standards
which go with a clear and sober mind. After listening
to Bill W., the co-founder of AA, and what he went through
to get started, his struggles, failures and heartaches,
and how this program has worked for so many since the
founding, I know that if I work hard and if other members
feel as I do, this disease (which I am sure it is) can
be arrested for many -- not cured, but arrested."
has and will bring the Indians and white man closer together
in the understanding of one another's problems, raise
the standard of living, be an incentive for the Indian
family, and improve the general appearance of the Reservation.
This will give the Indians a common meeting ground outside
the church and tribal meeting hall. The sober Indian will
once again walk with dignity and pursue his real purpose
Tall Man once said to the AA group in Malaseet, "The
white man does not look down on you because you are Indian.
He looks down on you as he would anyone who is drunk,
dirty, and lazy.
the use of alcohol, in the last analysis, help preserve
a race through its reconversion period, from so-called
"heathens and savages" to "civilized Christians."
Regarding this point, I think we can all do a lot of soul
Drunk: Why are you snapping your fingers?
Second Drunk: To keep the elephants away.
First Drunk: I don't see any elephants.
Second Drunk: See, it works.
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., November 1962
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