Washington tribes are a step closer to legally being able to open distilleries.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, introduced a bill earlier this year to repeal a 19th-century law prohibiting such establishments on tribal lands. The House unanimously passed the bill Wednesday.
Herrera Beutler said on the House floor that she first became aware of the issue thanks to the Chehalis Tribe, which has plans to open a distillery and brewery on its land. Current law directs the government to destroy any distilleries operating on tribal land.
“This issue is a matter of fairness; 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. I was proud to shepherd this bill through the House in a bipartisan manner,” Herrera Beutler said 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. “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.”
U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats from Washington, introduced a companion Senate bill in June.
“The Chehalis Tribe is grateful for the House of Representatives’ overwhelming bipartisan support in repealing this antiquated, paternalistic law,” Chehalis Tribe Chairman Harry Pickernell Sr. said in a press release.
“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.”
The tribe’s plan would create about 100 jobs initially during construction, and 30 to 40 full-time positions once the distillery and brewery open. The Chehalis Tribe currently has about 160 jobs to offer to its workforce of 300 to 400 members.