Herrera Beutler bill to repeal 1834 prohibition of tribal distilleries gets hearing


Courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

Southwest Washington congresswoman says tribes are being prevented from pursuing economic development through an antiquated law drawn up 184 years ago

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s bill seeking a repeal of the 1834 prohibition of distilleries on tribal lands received a hearing in front of the U.S. House Natural Resources’ Indian Affairs Subcommittee Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, testifies before the U.S. House Natural Resources’ Indian Affairs Subcommittee on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Photo provided by the office of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, testifies before the U.S. House Natural Resources’ Indian Affairs Subcommittee on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Photo provided by the office of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler

The Republican congresswoman from Battle Ground used her time in front of the microphone to tell lawmakers the ban is antiquated, unfair and overdue for repeal.

“The prohibition was enacted at a time when the federal government took a more paternalistic stance with the Indian tribes,” she said, “and while many of the provisions in the larger statute have since been repealed, somehow the distillery prohibition remains.”

The impetus for her proposed legislation is a project by the Chehalis Tribe at the northern end of the 3rd Congressional District where tribal leaders are pursuing an economic development that would include a distillery, brewery, restaurant and educational training facility on reservation land.

Herrera Beutler said the tribe was notified of the 1834 law by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which suggested the project be moved off tribal land or that the tribe pursue a legislative remedy.

She said she simply wants to help place the nation’s tribes on equal footing with non-tribal citizens who are not shackled by a 184-year-old law.

“This repeal enables tribes to diversify their economic investments and helps provide jobs not just for tribal members but also for neighboring communities,” Herrera Beutler said. “This is a matter of fairness, quite frankly, and Washington D.C. shouldn’t be in the business of telling Indian country it cannot engage in business that’s allowed everywhere else and is actually helping many neighboring areas revitalize their local economies.”

Herrera Beutler, who also placed a letter of support from the National Congress of American Indians on the record during the hearing, said her bill includes no special treatment for tribes.

“It’s encouraging that it’s advancing in Congress; it will be a win for the Chehalis Tribe when it’s allowed to build a distillery, brewery, restaurant and educational training facility on its own land,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release after her testimony. “And it’ll be a win for Southwest Washington when we remove this 1834 law because this project will bring more than 100 jobs to our region.”

The bill has bipartisan support, according to Herrera Beutler.

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Eric Schwartz arrives as a reporter at Clark County Today with nearly 15 years of experience as a journalist. He most recently served five years as editor of The Chronicle newspaper in Centralia. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor, reporter and intern at the newspaper. Schwartz graduated from Forks High School on the Olympic Peninsula before attending Centralia College and Eastern Washington University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the award-winning college newspaper, The Easterner, and received the Edmund J. Yarwood award as the top performer in his class. He covered sports through a fellowship at The Tri-City Herald before taking a full-time reporting job with The Chronicle in 2007. After three years as a reporter at The Chronicle, he traveled to Kalispell, MT, and worked as a crime, courts and emergency services reporter at The Daily Inter Lake, where he won two first-place awards for spot news coverage from the Montana Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2011, he returned to The Chronicle as the assistant editor before being promoted to editor in 2013. Under his leadership, The Chronicle was the recipient of several C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for Distinguished Reporting, and the newspaper was twice given the General Excellence Award as the top performer in its category by the Society of Professional Journalists. Schwartz has also been the recipient of two C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for his own reporting and has garnered additional individual awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Most recently, he and his staff were honored with a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for The Chronicle’s editorials and news coverage focused on transparency in county government.

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