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Film Catalog » Subject Areas » American Studies » The Red Road to Sobriety

The Red Road to Sobriety

The Red Road to Sobriety - Image Produced by Gary Rhine.
90 min. Color. 1995.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: No
Catalog #: 0137
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Sale Price: $195.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

The contemporary Native American Sobriety Movement is flourishing throughout the Indian communities of North America. This vital social movement combines ancient spiritual traditions with modern medical approaches to substance abuse recovery. In this spirited, inspiring, and hopeful documentary, American Indian health practitioners and traditional medicine people reveal the importance of tribal values and spiritual awareness in the recovery process.

As the film vividly illustrates, substance abuse in Indian communities must be understood within the context of the "American Holocaust." Few Americans are today aware that the U.S. and Canadian governments intentionally used alcohol in their attempts to destroy indigenous cultures and obtain Indian lands. The devastating effects of these policies were compounded by the propagation of the "drunken Indian" stereotype.

Faced with the loss of their religion, land, culture, freedom, and pride, Indian families experienced a debilitating syndrome known as intergenerational trauma, an experience shared by many families affected by the Holocaust in Europe.

Despite its powerful indictment of governmental abuse, the driving force of this film is the positive spirit emanating from the Indian people featured in it. Continuing in the ancient traditions of "The Dreamkeepers" and "The Wounded Healers," these people offer a new sense of hope to all those in recovery.

Told in large part by recovering Native Americans, many of whom work as counselors, the film presents methods and tools that specifically enable alcoholics to help themselves. There is a strong emphasis on spiritual guidance and traditional Native thinking, both designed to encourage dignity and self-worth as a treatment plan.

"The Red Road to Sobriety" is essential viewing in a variety of courses in Native American studies, religious studies and comparative religion, cultural anthropology, public health, psychology, and American history and studies. It was produced by Gary Rhine for Kifaru Productions and was co-directed by Gary Rhine and Chante Pierce (Cheyenne/Cherokee) and narrated by noted actor Benjamin Bratt (Quechua).

See also the companion video, The Red Road to Sobriety Video Talking Circle.


"Validates and celebrates the unique cultural and spiritual approaches that Indian people are using to address alcohol and other drug problems. Native cultural leaders give voice to new historical perspectives in understanding the root causes of social problems in Indian communities." -- Prof. Bonnie M. Duran (Coushatta/Opelousas), Dept. of Public Health, Univ. of New Mexico

"The demoralized state to which Native Americans had been reduced made alcoholism a special problem for them. It is, therefore, heartening beyond words to find them coming together in their determination to resist this scourge. This remarkable film celebrates this recent development. It is one of the most encouraging films of the decade." -- Huston Smith, Prof. of Religion, Emeritus, Univ. of California, Berkeley, author of The World's Religions and Why Religion Matters

"Nothing short of remarkable, both in scope and content. It is a powerful journey into alcoholism within Native American communities and the modern attempts to combat the disease using traditional approaches. The film is honest and sensitive, sometimes painful, yet filled with hope." -- Multicultural Review

"Courageous and uplifting... Does not dwell on the past or the litany of depressing statistics. Rather, it shows the viewer that a pan-tribal wellness movement is alive in this country... A beacon of hope for those who believe that Native communities are forever condemned to the plague of alcoholism." -- Native Peoples Magazine

"A respectful examination of a complex topic." -- Booklist (American Library Assn.)

"The film is most memorable for the quantity and diversity of the people it showcases. Some true heroes cross the screen.... The film's tone is vibrant and sensitive, allowing non-Natives to feel the breadth of the problem and its solutions. Recommended." -- Video Librarian


  • Natl. Educational Film Festival Award
  • CINE Golden Eagle Award
  • TELLY Award
  • American Indian Film Festival honoree
  • Parliament of the World's Religions honoree
  • DreamSpeakers Festival honoree
  • Tucson Film Festival honoree



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