Liquor Has Been Their Undoing: Liquor Trafficking and Alcohol Abuse in the Lower Missouri Fur Trade
- Author(s): Thorne, Tanis
- et al.
In his classic fictional work Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain created a character, Injun Joe, who has made an indelible imprint on America n popular though Injun Joe personifies the archetypal "half-breed": an outcast with a penchant for drunkenness and violence. In Twain's day, the half-breed was an apt symbol to excite fear, for he was a person living on the margin of white society but uncontrolled by its conventions and therefore unpredictable. Twain’s Injun Joe mirrored the earlier characterization of Paul Wilhelm, Duke of Wurttemberg, who had traveled up the Missouri River in 1823: "Given to immoderate drinking," he wrote, the half-bloods are generally not regarded very highly, but their behavior rather than their color is the reason." Wurttemberg viewed mixed-bloods as a species of frontier people who lived outside the moral restraints of society and were, therefore, dangerous both to Indians and whites . This stereotype of the drunken half-breed has persisted into the present day, in part because it does have some historical basis. As with any stereotype, however, it reveals a cryptic element of truth, while veiling a more complex reality. The stereotype distorts by generalizing, since biracial people were not a unified or uniform group in the past, any more than they are today.