The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation are among those eager to welcome those visitors. But the 1834 ban represents a hurdle for a proposed brewery, distillery and restaurant on the reservation in southwest Washington. “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,” 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.” The tribe is experienced in the hospitality industry, with the Great Wolf Lodge Resort, a large indoor water park and hotel, among the offerings on its homelands. Two years ago, the tribe began selling craft distilled spirits, as well as craft brews, at CraftHouse, a restaurant at the Lucky Eagle Casino. Those products are sourced from companies outside of Indian Country. H.R.5317, if it becomes law, would enable the tribe to develop its own and tap into growing interest in craft distilling and craft brewing. According to the American Craft Spirits Association, the craft spirits market reached $3 billion in sales in 2016, representing a growth of 25 percent. Craft brewer sales are even stronger -- $23.5 billion in 2016, according to the Brewers Association. The distillery bill, introduced on March 15, already enjoys support in Indian Country, according to a co-sponsor. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington) said the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, of which Chehalis is a member, and the National Congress of American Indians are calling for its passage. “This is about jobs and giving more people a chance to earn a living,” Kilmer said of H.R.5317, which counts two Republicans and two Democrats as co-sponsors. The bill isn't the only one in Congress that aims to repeal outdated laws in Indian Country. S.343, the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act, also known as the RESPECT Act, eliminates nearly a dozen "hateful" and "paternalistic" statutes, most of which date back to the 1800s. The 1834 distillery ban, which is encoded at Section 2141 of the Revised Statutes, is not included in S.343. But another provision would repeal Section 2087, which allows the federal government to withhold funds to Indian people who are "under the influence of any description of intoxicating liquor." “It is long past time to remove these offensive laws from our books," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), the sponsor of the RESPECT Act. The bill cleared the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs nearly a year ago and awaits action on the Senate floor. H.R.5317 has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
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