Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal an outdated 1834 law that prohibits Native American tribes from building and operating distilleries on their tribal lands.

“This legislation would provide a much-needed fix to an outdated law,” said Senator Murray. “I’m proud to help efforts to break down barriers for tribal nations while empowering economic development in our local communities.”

“Getting this outdated law off the books is an important step to supporting tribal self-determination and economic development in Indian Country. When Native American entrepreneurs have the opportunity to create businesses, they thrive and strengthen the communities around them,” said Senator Cantwell.

Washington state’s Chehalis Tribe has established plans to build a brewery with an attached restaurant and distillery on tribal lands in Grand Mound, WA. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs warned the Tribe that the pre-Civil War law prohibited distilleries on Indian lands and that it would be unable to approve documents necessary for the Tribe to operate it. The law currently directs to Bureau of Indian Affairs to “destroy and break up” any distillery on Indian land. As a result, the Tribe chose to not begin construction of the facility until the issue is resolved.

"I am pleased that the Senate will consider this overdue legislation.  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. Congress has recently undertaken efforts to repeal many of the antiquated and paternalistic laws that impair development in Indian country and this legislation advances those efforts,” said Chehalis Tribe Chairman Harry Pickernell Sr.

The legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Cantwell is also sponsored by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Don Young (R-AK), Denny Heck (D-WA), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Betty McCollum (D-MN) have introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives. H.R. 5317 has received a hearing and mark-up before the House Natural Resources Committee. It now awaits a vote before the full House of Representatives.

The full text of the bill, S. 3060, can be found HERE.

For more information on the issue, read this New York Times opinion piece or this article from The Centralia Chronicle.