President Donald Trump lays a wreath during a ceremony at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage in Hermitage, Tennessee, on March 15, 2017. Photo by Shealah Craighead / White House

Why can't tribes operate their own distilleries? Blame Andrew Jackson



A bill to repeal an old ban on distilleries in Indian Country is gaining steam on Capitol Hill and it turns out tribes can blame a familiar figure for the paternalistic law.

Writing in The New York Times, C. Jarrett Dieterle of Kevin R. Kosar, both of the non-partisan R Street Institute, point out that Andrew Jackson signed the ban into law in 1834. He was the president -- much admired by the current occupant of the Oval Office -- who forced tribes out of their homelands in the southeast U.S. during that same time frame.

"Indians, the thinking went, were uncivilized, incapable of enlightened self-rule and bound to be fleeced by white settlers," Dieterle and Kosar write of a series of laws that imposed Washington's will on Indian Country.

Federal policy has shifted significantly toward self-determination since then and current members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- are hoping to undo Jackson's ban with H.R. 5317, the Repeal of Prohibition on Certain Alcohol Manufacturing on Indian Lands Act. The bill got a favorable hearing on April 26 and was quickly approved at a markup session on May 8.

"During his testimony in support of repealing the distilling ban, Harry Pickernell, chairman of the Chehalis tribe, noted that the official policy of the United States government is to 'support tribal self-determination and self-sufficiency,”' which means that tribes must be able to provide for their members through economic development," Dieterle and Kosar write of the leader of the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation.

"Congress should let them open distilleries and do exactly that," they conclude.


H.R.5317 has not been considered on the floor of the House. Most Indian bills are considered non-controversial and are typically approved by voice votes.

A companion version has not been introduced in the Senate but that chamber could always take up H.R.5317 if the House takes action.

Read More on the Story:
C. Jarrett Dieterle and Kevin R. Kosar: Why Can’t Native Americans Make Whiskey? (The New York Times June 4, 2018)

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Legislative Hearing on H.R.5317 and H.R.211

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: House Committee on Natural Resources Markup on H.R.5317

Related Stories:
House committee schedules markup on four Indian Country bills (May 7, 2018)
Bill to repeal old ban on distilleries in Indian Country gets first hearing (April 23, 2018)
New bill repeals old prohibition on distilleries in Indian Country (March 19, 2018)