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Rep. Heck Backs Bill for Regional Economic Jolt

Mar 23, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, along with several other members of the Washington state Congressional Delegation introduced a bipartisan bill this week that would repeal a 19th century prohibition of distilleries on tribal land, allowing for increased economic development through strengthened tribal sovereignty.

The bill, if it becomes law, would promote economic development, providing jobs in Lewis, Thurston and Grays Harbor counties.

The Chehalis Tribe has begun the permitting process for constructing and operating a craft distillery, but have come up against the 1834 law prohibiting such development. The bipartisan bill, Repeal of Prohibition on Certain Alcohol Manufacturing on Indian Lands, would remove that rule and permit tribes to pursue the same economic opportunities allowed on non-tribal land.

The Chehalis Tribe’s proposed project includes a brewery, a craft distillery and attached educational and restaurant facilities that will provide training and employment to tribal members. Employment opportunities will also be available to non-tribal members from Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties — an area that encompasses multiple economically-lagging communities. The project would also incorporate brewing instruction and teaching distillery skills to college students in conjunction with their college courses.

“It’s time we remove this outdated rule and allow tribes to pursue the same economic opportunity on their land allowed on non-tribal land. Economic empowerment for tribes, skills training for students and jobs for the community would add up to a win for Southwest Washington, and I’m pleased to partner with the Chehalis Tribe and my colleagues to help achieve it,” U.S. Rep. Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said.

“This is about jobs and giving more people a chance to earn a living,” U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Tacoma, said. “The craft spirits industry has given a boost to towns throughout Washington state. Repealing this antiquated law will ensure that tribes are treated equitably and enable tribal communities to create jobs for tribal members and non-members alike.”

“The legislation would repeal a never used, antiquated law that is an obstacle to an economic development project on the Chehalis Reservation that would benefit the Tribe and surrounding communities, create jobs, and provide training opportunities for tribal members,” Chehalis Chairman Harry Pickernell said. “The repeal will ensure that all aspects of the economic development project can commence and be completed as envisioned by the Tribe.”

Both the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians support this bill.