History of the Development of the Native American Indian General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous
In 1989 an “Ad Hoc” committee was formed in the San Diego, CA, Area 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous to see how effectively the AA message was being carried to Native Americans.
The committee’s suggestion was to establish meetings on the reservations in San Diego County, solicit support from urban groups to keep them going, and report back the results with recommendations. The committee had roving potluck meetings each month, meeting at different locations through out the area, and having a different host reservation each month. When an Indian with an interest in starting an A.A. meeting on the reservation was found, his tribal counsel was approached and A.A. traditions were explained (such as being self supportive), along with what A.A. does not do. A tribal location and date to start the meeting would be agreed upon. All participants dedicated themselves to supporting the new meeting, making sure someone was always there to open the door. This level of experience did not come about overnight, but over a period of years. It has been shown in the San Diego area that this way of encouraging the message to come from within does work. The San Diego ad hoc committee approach is extremely effective as long as they are carrying the message of A.A.
By March 1993 AA meetings had been established on twelve of eighteen reservations around San Diego County. In keeping with AA’s tradition of autonomy, these meetings were encouraged to incorporate Native American customs and culture into their formats. Ten of the original twelve meetings still flourish today!
The committee also concluded that in order to effectively carry the message to the still-suffering Native American alcoholic, a service structure built around the traditional beliefs, practices and customs was needed. With this conclusion made the “Ad Hoc” committee formally terminated but the majority of the members continued in their effort to serve. After meeting with the Pacific Coast Regional trustee and the General Manager of the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous the majority of the members formed the Native American General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous and an application was filed for representation at AA’s World Service Meeting.
In 1990 Earl L., a Paiute Indian had a vision. Following this vision Earl was instrumental in establishing the first-ever National/ International Native American AA committee/convention. Earl saw in the vision Indian Nations coming together in unity, celebrating sobriety and embracing their culture. He saw the helping hand of AA as being attractive within Indian Country. Earl’s vision saw our traditional ways as adding to the warmth and unconditional love of AA’s principals. Earl made numerous trips to the San Diego area and worked with the “Ad Hoc” Committee to foster and promote Native American AA meetings on the local reservations. After the “Ad Hoc” Committee disbanded Earl continued to encourage and support the remaining members to move forward and implement the committee’s recommendations. In 1999, on the day Earl passed into the spirit world, he signed a letter to the Native Nations honoring their sovereignty and requesting their consensus for the NAIGSO-AA to interact with their people. Now Earl joins us in Council and the vision rests on our shoulders.
Today the Native American General Service Office continues to carry the AA recovery message to the Indian Nations. Our Home Fires registry includes over 100 Native American AA groups and 450 loners/associates. There are Native American AA conventions held in all four corners of Indian Country and recovery from alcoholism is coming into reach of all Native peoples wherever they live.
Revised December 2016