A block away from an I-5 offramp between Olympia and the town of Chehalis, a brew pub and distillery has opened. What makes it newsworthy is that it’s the first legal distillery on a Native American reservation, opened on land which is part of the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation.
It wasn’t easy. Besides all the usual difficulties which arise when a Native tribe tries to develop a business to raise the standard of living on a reservation, they also had to contend with COVID-19, wildfires, and the racism of Andrew Jackson.
In 2015, Chehalis leaders were discussing options for new businesses which would attract people to their planned hotel and restaurant on their reservation in southwestern Washington. Their original domain reached from the Cascades to the Pacific, from what is now the Olympic National Park almost to the Columbia, but in the 19th Century they were forced onto a single reservation inside the Chehalis River watershed, which was reduced and reduced again by acts of Congress until it was just 4,438 acres. In that confined area, the 800 enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes had to struggle to find a way to provide employment for themselves and tax revenue for their government. In an interview with OPB , Chairman Harry Pickernell said, “We thought, why not a distillery?” They began plans to open a distillery in partnership with Heritage Distilling company of Gig Harbor. Seeking a license to operate, they ran into an unexpected barrier: a law signed by […]