1834 Federal Law Stops Native American Distilleries

1834 Federal Law Stops Native American Distilleries

Every once in a while, I come across a piece of information that is hard for me to believe is true. Most of the time it’s science or tech, like Pluto no longer being called a planet or octopuses possibly being alien organisms.

Other times, it’s something that highlights a gross violation of common sense. I don’t mean the latest “Florida Man” stories, but things more along the lines of fundamental rights and freedoms that are being denied people for no good reason.

What tripped my breaker was when I read what was going on with distilling and Native American tribes.

The Politics of Past Sins

Judging the people of today by what was done in the past is a losing proposition in my book. What we should be on the hook for is when some of those wrongs are still being actively and purposefully continued today. That is what is happening to Native Americans who want to start a distillery on a reservation. A federal law from 1834 is preventing them from doing that.

Reservations are semi-autonomous, independent governments. As such, they are exempt from many federal taxes, as exemplified by Native American owned casinos.  So why keep this law on the books?  Simple—follow the money.  Think about it.

Even with the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, Uncle Sam still takes a pretty big cut from what distilleries produce. A distillery that didn’t have to pay that tax burden would have a considerable advantage. That said, there could be a relatively legislative fix for the theoretical tax loophole.

Blanket prohibition is wrong. Any ban on alcohol and spirits is wrong, but if that's the choice communities want to make for themselves, they are free to do so. Having that decision made for them isn't freedom. It's controlled via moralizing.

Missing A New Distilling Tradition

Maybe the only thing more exciting than enjoying a whiskey that is steeped in centuries of tradition is finding a whiskey from a country or region where distilling is new. We get to see their unique style and flavors develop in real time. And when it comes to distilling, there’s always room for one more.

It would be exciting to see how Native American, Tribal distilling started out and what it would eventually become as they experimented and built their own distilling traditions.