The role played by a former federal government residential school in a First Nation community's alcohol abuse and impaired driving: results of a talking circle

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2006 Sep;65(4):347-56. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v65i4.18126.


Objectives: The study's objective was to better understand alcohol abuse and impaired driving behaviors in a First Nations community as it reflects systemic issues linked to historical, family and community experiences.

Study design and methods: Fifteen 18- to 29-year-old drivers participated in an exploratory eight-hour Talking Circle held according to traditional cultural practice. Four First Nations researchers, trained in Talking Circle protocol, and a Band Elder facilitated the data collection, data analysis according to emerging themes, and data verification.

Results: Federal government residential schools contribute to intergenerational effects which impact impaired driving in a northern First Nations community. Traditional parental role modeling has changed dramatically. Rather than guide children through a communally shared development process, many parents now expect their children to assume adult roles by expecting them to take care of their guardians when they drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Because a wall of silence exists between the young and old, many young people seek refuge with friends and peers, who subsequently influence them to abuse alcohol and engage in impaired driving. Many older Band members no longer serve as leaders for young people. Instead, they behave like peers and engage in activities that facilitate alcohol abuse and impaired driving.

Conclusions: Historical institutions like federal government residential schools have contributed to systemic socio cultural problems which influence alcohol abuse and impaired driving. Hence there is a need for community-based intervention strategies that promote cultural healing. The healing journey can start with First Nations communities providing their people opportunities to share their stresses and traumas in supporting and nurturing environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / ethnology*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Federal Government*
  • Female
  • Health Education / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology*
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Male
  • Schools / organization & administration*