House Approves Bill to Repeal Prohibition of Tribal Distilleries

“Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be in the business of telling Indian Country it cannot engage in a business that’s allowed everywhere else and is actually helping many neighboring areas revitalize their local economies,” said U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

That’s the crux of Herrera Beutler’s bill to repeal an 1834 act passed by the 23rd United States Congress “to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers.” (Read Native Business Magazine’s article “Bill to Repeal Ban Prohibiting Distilleries on Tribal Lands Making Headway.”)

As The New York Times reported, the ban, signed by Andrew Jackson, “was a piece of a broader paternalistic policy scheme that treated American Indians as wards of the state.”

Last week, the U.S. House unanimously approved Herrera Beutler’s bill to repeal the prohibition of distilleries on tribal land.

Now the Chehalis Tribe is a step closer toward building and operating a distillery, brewery and restaurant in Southwest Washington. A Chehalis distillery and brewery stands to create about 100 construction jobs, and 30 to 40 full-time positions once open.

“Currently the Tribe is planning to develop a stand-alone brewery and a stand-alone distillery, both of which will be on-reservation and 100 percent owned and operated by the Tribe. Each of these enterprises is intended to both provide new skills and training to Tribal members and non-Indians, but also provide skilled jobs on the reservation,” Chehalis Tribal Chairman Harry Pickernell, Sr. said.

Herrera Beutler echoed those sentiments in her floor speech. “The Chehalis Tribe had the vision for this economic development, and together, we’re successfully cutting through federal bureaucracy to repeal an 1834 law,” Herrera Beutler said.

Beutler hopes the Senate will quickly pass its companion bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “I’m hopeful the Senate will also swiftly pass its bill so Indian tribes across the country will be allowed to distill on their own land, and provide new jobs not just for tribal members, but to neighboring communities, as well,” she said.

“Today’s passage of H.R. 5317 not only promotes tribal sovereignty and self-determination, but it will also benefit tribal and local economies nationwide,” Pickernell said. “I look forward to swift action on the bill in the Senate and would like to extend our thanks to Congresswoman Herrera Beutler for her leadership on this issue.”