You can read about these myths in the seminal book, “Alcohol Problems in Native America: The Untold Story of Resistance and Recovery - The Truth About the Lie” by Don L. Coyhis and William L. White. Here is an important extract from that book which focuses on the FACTS.
‘About Native Peoples and Alcohol-Related Problems
1. Native Americans possessed an exceptional knowledge of botanical psychopharmacology prior to European contact. They lived in harmony with the power of these plant-based substances (including alcohol in some tribes) by respecting the spirits and rules of the plants from which they were derived.
2. The initial response of Native tribes to alcohol availability following European contact was not one of drunken mayhem and widespread alcoholism.
3. Alcohol problems and alcoholism rose as Native tribes came under physical and cultural assault and when drinking alcohol shifted from a ritual of intercultural contact to a tool of economic, political and sexual exploitation.
4. Early ”firewater myths” portraying native Americans as genetically inferior (inherently vulnerable to alcoholism) provided ideological support for the decimation and colonization of Native tribes and continue to serve that function today.
5. The legacies of the “firewater myths” include generations of shame (the “drunken Indian” stereotype), racial shame, and a fundamental misconstruction of the sources of, and solutions to, alcohol problems in Native communities.
6. Native leaders actively resisted the infusion of alcohol into tribal life and continue to resist such infusion today.
7. Early Indigenous responses to alcohol problems included the development of sobriety-based religious/cultural revitalization and healing movements that constitute the first recovery mutual aid societies in the world - a century before the Washingtonian revival of the 1840s and two centuries before the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
8. Recovery traditions in native communities continue today through abstinence-based spirituality, the “Indianization” of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, the new recovery-based revitalization movements (e.g., the Wellbriety Movement), and the rise of culturally informed alcoholism treatment.
9. The most effective and enduring solutions to Native alcohol problems have emerged and continue to emerge from within the very heart of tribal cultures.
10. The history of resistance and recovery within Native American tribes is a testimony to cultural forces of prevention and healing that continue to constitute powerful, but underutilized, antidotes to alcohol problems.
11. A period of great healing, recovery, renewal and resilience has begun within Native communities.
12. Recovery from alcohol problems and alcoholism is a living reality in Native American communities and has been for more than 250 years.’
I can strongly recommend you read the article about the book - and the firewater myths - that you can find here. I should point out that the same myths exist in Australia and other countries.
The following paper elaborates on the points described above.