Trump Signs Bill Into Law Allowing Distilleries in Indian Country

This week, President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law, overthrowing a prohibition of distilleries on tribal land.

H.R. 5317 repeals a section of the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834. The 200-year-old ban barred the manufacture of certain liquor on tribal lands.

“For nearly 200 years this archaic law has been a barrier for tribal nations pursing economic freedom,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington).

RELATED: Bill to Repeal Ban Prohibiting Distilleries on Tribal Lands Making Headway

House Approves Bill to Repeal Prohibition of Tribal Distilleries

Enactment of the bill paves way for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation to develop its planned stand-alone brewery and separate distillery on-reservation in Washington State. Both will be 100 percent owned and operated by the tribe.

The tribe began planning a brewpub restaurant featuring a brewery and distillery earlier this year. During the permit process, they discovered through the Bureau of Indian Affairs the federal law preventing them from opening a distillery.

“Today, I join the Chehalis Tribe and all others across the country as we celebrate the repeal of a law that strives to bring more equality and sovereignty to Indian tribes,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington), who sponsored the bill, said on December 11. “This is a good day for tribal members who can now expand economically in the distillery business and bring new skills training and jobs to our region.”

The Chehalis-owned operation stands to create about 100 construction jobs, and 30 to 40 full-time positions once open. Chehalis Tribal Chairman Harry Pickernell, Sr., sees the new law as opening economic development opportunities for tribal nations across the country.

The Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine, for one, is similarly considering a distilling operation, reported PEW Trusts.

“Tribes around the country will now have the ability to move forward with projects to build and operate distilleries on their own lands,” Chairman Pickernell said in a statement. “This is a great victory for the Chehalis Tribe and tribes nationwide that seek to expand economic development opportunities on their own land.”

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