Tribal leaders want to tap into a growth industry.
In addition to gambling, American Indian tribes across the nation may soon be able to supply their own booze to customers.
A bipartisan measure designed to roll back a 184-year-old law that prohibits distilleries on Native American land has just been introduced in the House of Representatives.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., on Thursday and has bipartisan support from Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, Denny Heck, D-Wash., and Tom Cole, R-Okla.
The legislation repeals Section 2141 of the Revised Statutes, the precursor to the U.S. Code, to “remove the prohibitions on certain alcohol manufacturing on Indian lands.”
“It’s time we move this outdated rule and allow tribes to pursue the same economic opportunity on their land allowed on non-tribal land,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement. “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.”
This St. Patrick’s Day, I was enjoying some of San Diego’s best craft beer with friends, and we noted how successfully some of the breweries had spun off their own distilleries. Having enjoyed special tasting parties at the local facilities, which produce outstanding gin and vodka, it is quite understanadble that Native Americans would like to get into the business.
The move to repealing this legislation began when the Chehalis Tribe of western Washington state wanted to build their own brewery, and the project plans ran up against this law.
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.
…“This is about jobs and giving more people a chance to earn a living,” Rep. Kilmer 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.”
As the Trump era of expanding employment opportunities continue, it is interesting to note that craft alcohol production is of the leading sectors hiring new talent.
…Over the past seven years, the breweries, wineries and distilleries sector has been adding jobs at an 11.1 percent annual rate, compared with 1.7 percent for nonfarm payroll employment as whole….
Part of what’s going on here is that Americans are drinking more alcoholic beverages while soft drink consumption has declined. But that can only explain some of the job growth. Alcoholic beverage sales in the U.S. rose 21 percent in dollar terms from 2010 to 2016, while employment more than doubled.
No, what’s really changed is how alcoholic beverages — beer and spirits in particular — are being produced. For a long time, both industries in the U.S. were dominated by a few giant players. Over the past decade, both have seen an explosion in new entrants.
It is easy to see why savvy tribal leaders would like to tap into this business, and why the repeal of this law is bipartisan. Good booze can bring everyone together.
And, for Senator Elizabeth Warren, the move may be timely. Perhaps she can distill a drink strong enough to steady her nerves in the wake of President Trump’s taunting.
On a personal note: Of all the measures that have ended under President Trump’s watch, this is my second favorite, after the nixing of the Paris Climate Accord.
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