The MotherTown Blonde Ale is the first product of Seven Clans Brewing. Photo: Seven Clans Brewing

Eastern Cherokee casino stocks new beer created by tribal citizens

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has a new beer on tap at its casino in North Carolina.

Normally, that might not be such big news. But "MotherTown Blonde" is unique in that it's the first product of Seven Clans Brewing, a company owned by tribal citizens.

“I think, for me, when we started coming up with it, I was trying to figure out what is, maybe, a unifying word,” Morgan Owle Crisp, the president of Seven Clans, told The Cherokee One Feather of the brewery's name.

But Seven Clans is finding unity hard to come by in the Eastern Cherokee community. Some citizens are upset with the company's name, the nature of its business and the "MotherTown" name too, The Smoky Mountain News reported.

“It’s disrespectful. It dishonors the name of who we are,” Lea Wolfe told the paper.

Critics like Wolfe say the use of "clans" in the business name implies support from the entire tribe, which has long debated about the presence of alcohol, beer and spirits on the reservation. "MotherTown" is also controversial because it is connected to the tribe's ancestral origins, places that are considered sacred today.

“You wouldn’t throw beer on a grave, so to speak,” Jatanna Feather, who has started a petition on about the brewery, told The News.

In The One Feather story, Coggins, who serves as the vice president of Seven Clans, acknowledged that tying tribal cultural symbols to the beer business can be hard for some to accept. The symbol of "Mother Town Blonde" is Selu, who is considered the first Cherokee woman. As for the beer itself, the recipe "incorporates a hint of corn to symbolize her eternal gift to the Cherokee," the company says on its website.

“None of it is meant to be disrespectful, certainly not degrading, but to be promotional and proud," Coggins told the paper.

Liquor is currently allowed at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and the Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel. Sales began after tribal citizens approved them through a referendum in 2009.

But the tribe has no control over a state law which allows liquor sales at other businesses on the reservation. As a result, a new referendum has been scheduled for May 31 to determine whether the tribe should operate its own liquor store.

Read More on the Story:
Brewery Owners embark on “a new adventure” (The Cherokee One Feather March 12, 2018)
A beer by any other name: Brewery’s naming choices cause protest in Cherokee (The Smoky Mountain News March 21, 2018)
Alcohol referendum scheduled (The Smoky Mountain News March 21, 2018)

Related Stories:
Eastern Cherokees schedule vote on liquor sales beyond casinos (February 7, 2018)
Eastern Cherokees weigh expansion of liquor sales beyond gaming enterprise (November 7, 2017)

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