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Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Barton H. Barbour, Ph.D.


Europeans’ introduction of alcohol to indigenous North American societies has long been a controversial topic of scholarly debate across disciplines. The assertion has often been made in fields ranging from Native American Studies to Sociology that European colonizers intentionally used alcohol as a tool of oppression in the process of conquest. In recent years, this claim has also been made more forcefully through documentaries and newsletter articles created from within indigenous communities. While there is historical evidence to support this assertion in many instances, the matter is far more complex than such generalizations allow and merits closer examination.

This thesis will address the question of whether the French distribution of alcohol among Native Americans in the Saint Lawrence River Valley was a deliberate program of oppression. The historical record indicates that, although individual Europeans traded and consumed alcohol with Native Americans, the French and colonial governments aggressively attempted to curb the practice. The indigenous population of New France vastly outnumbered that of the newcomers and French authorities were fully aware of their precarious position in the continent. Fearing indigenous uprisings leading to the downfall of the French enterprise in North America, colonial authorities made a diligent effort to regulate the flow of alcohol with mixed results, as this thesis will demonstrate.