Christy Chapman


As in many Native American communities, alcohol use and abuse is an all too common problem among the Ashwi, members of Zuni Pueblo. Soon after the arrival of Anglo-American settlers, alcohol was introduced to the Zuni. Seeing its devastating effects, Zuni elders referred to this intoxicating substance as ‘black water.’ Since the introduction of black water, alcohol abuse among the Zuni has resulted in community members committing frequent criminal offenses, numerous health problems, and is the number-one cause of premature death among the Zuni.

Over the last century and a half, the devastating effects of black water have eroded the Zuni core value of caring for one another. Throughout this time, leaders of Zuni Pueblo have struggled to combat this growing alcohol problem by using punishments derived from the western justice system like fines and incarceration. These western punishments have proved to be less of a deterrent and more of a hindrance to community members struggling with alcohol addiction.

Thus, this article calls Zuni community members and leaders to action to find effective ways to address the problems black water has created within Zuni Pueblo. The final part of this article provides suggestions for holistic and collaborative community-focused solutions to alcohol abuse at Zuni. These solutions are aimed at lessening the devastating effects of black water among the Zuni and, most importantly, advocating to ensure that Zuni children are cared for and the core values of the Zuni are revitalized and cherished to make Zuni a better place for generations to come.



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