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Portrait of Mike ‘Racoon Eyes’ Kinney, 2012

Mike “Racoon Eyes” Kinney: Sobriety as a Native American

on September 25, 2020

Just a year ago, veteran journalist Mike “Racoon Eyes” Kinney led the Indigenous People’s Walk for Sobriety in Richmond, which involved hundreds of people, walking, shouting and honking their horns – all to call attention to alcohol abuse among indigenous peoples. 

“You can change,” longtime participant Clinton Chrisman said during the walk last year. “You can become a red wolf warrior.”

This year, COVID-19 has prevented Kinney and many others from taking part in the walk. But Kinney, the son of a Cherokee man, is continuing to advocate for indigenous rights on social media and writing news articles to keep attention focused on the problem. 

“Alcoholism will always exist, but I am optimistic that the sobriety walks are helping fight alcoholism in the native community of Richmond,” says Kinney, who has been 17 years sober.

Kinney, who currently writes for the Richmond Standard, is among a growing number of people taking part in walks in Richmond to North Dakota to Montana to help indigenous people struggling with alcoholism.

“Culture is prevention,” he says. “Many native people have turned to alcohol because of the inability to grieve and address the historical trauma of losing their culture, language and spirituality. Becoming a sober native person is an act of decolonizing.”

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