Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington introduced legislation Wednesday to repeal a 19th-century law that prevents tribes from operating distilleries on tribal land.
The two Democrats’ bill is identical to legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, in April. Her bill has been approved by the House Natural Resources Committee and awaits a floor vote.
“This legislation would provide a much-needed fix to an outdated law,” Murray said in a press release. “I’m proud to help efforts to break down barriers for tribal nations while empowering economic development in our local communities.”
Herrera Beutler, and now Cantwell and Murray, are pushing for this legislation because the Chehalis Tribe has plans to build a brewery and distillery on its Grand Mound lands.
Chehalis Tribal Chairman Harry Pickernell Sr., who testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, said the tribe has little room for development.
“It will allow the Chehalis Tribe to pursue its economic development efforts that have proven beneficial, not only to the Tribe and its members, but also to the surrounding non-Indian community,” Pickernell said in a press release.
A law enacted in 1834 directs the government to destroy and “break up” any distillery on tribal land.
“Getting this outdated law off the books is an important step to supporting tribal self-determination and economic development in Indian Country,” Cantwell said in a press release. “When Native American entrepreneurs have the opportunity to create businesses, they thrive and strengthen the communities around them.”
Herrera Beutler echoed that sentiment, adding that craft breweries and distilleries are booming in this region, and local tribes should be afforded the same opportunities to tap into the industry as everyone else.
“For this reason, it’s good to have Senators Cantwell and Murray join me in this effort so that we can repeal this antiquated ban for the Chehalis and other Indian tribes across the country,” she said.