A bill intended to repeal an 1834 law preventing Native American tribes from owning and operating distilleries is headed to the president’s desk.
The bipartisan legislation spearheaded by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, D-Wash., passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The bill was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives in September.
Herrera Beutler first began working on the repeal effort in April after learning that the Chehalis Tribe was being prevented from opening a brewery and distillery on its lands by the “antiquated” law.
“When the Chehalis Tribe first approached me about an antiquated law that prevented them from building a distillery on their land, it was clear that Congress needed to take action and repeal it in the name of fairness,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release. “I was pleased to partner with the Chehalis to craft, introduce and secure passage of this legislation in the U.S. House, and am grateful my colleagues in the Senate were equally successful in their efforts.”
The Chehalis Tribe began planning for its distillery and brewery in 2016 in Grand Mound when the Bureau of Indian Affairs alerted them of the law. The bureau was directed to “destroy and break up” any distillery on tribal land, according to the 184-year old law.
“There’s no place for laws that discriminate against our Native American communities and limit their economic opportunities,” Cantwell said in a press release. “Getting this outdated law off the books is a crucial step to support entrepreneurship, economic development, and tribal self-determination throughout Indian Country.”
Murray said repealing the archaic law “brings us one step closer to finally sweeping it into the dust bin of history.
“This is a win for the Chehalis Tribe that will help spur new economic development, and I urge President Trump to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible to help empower entrepreneurship in other tribal nations in our state and around the country,” Murray added.
Chehalis Tribal Chairman Harry Pickernell Sr., who has been involved in the legislative process since the beginning, said the tribe thanks its congressional leadership for its commitment to repealing the law.
“Tribes around the country will now have the ability to move forward with projects to build and operate distilleries on their own lands,” Pickernell said in a press release. “This is a great victory for the Chehalis Tribe and tribes nationwide that seek to expand economic development opportunities on their own land.”