Indian Affairs

Sen. Smith is proud to represent and advocate for the seven Ojibwe tribes, the four Dakota tribes, and the vibrant urban indigenous community in Minnesota.

When Senator Smith first joined the Senate, she asked to serve on the Indian Affairs Committee because she’s heard time and time again from leaders in Indian Country who are frustrated that policy decisions are being made without bringing tribes to the table. There are tremendous needs in Indian Country, and Sen. Smith understands that leaders in Indian Country often have answers for how the federal government can step up and fulfill its trust responsibility to tribal communities.

Sen. Smith wants to make sure programs in Indian Country or that directly impact tribes from energy and economy development to health and education are adequately supported. She believes we need to address the effects of the opioid crisis on tribal communities, especially on mothers and children. We need to address the lack of housing in Indian Country, which makes it harder to attract teachers, law enforcement officers, and health care workers that reservations need.

Sen. Smith believes we also need to give tribes the tools to develop their workforce and attract business and investment, while also investing in basic infrastructure like roads and broadband.

Latest Releases

Senator Smith, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill Giving Tribal Colleges and Universities a Stronger Voice in Education Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), along with U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mon.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), introduced bipartisan legislation – the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act – aimed at giving Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) greater input over federal funding and policymaking that impacts them. “Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges are important institutions that serve Native and non-Native students alike in some of the most impoverished and geographically isolated regions of the country,” said Smith. “These institutions deserve a seat at the table when federal agencies make decisions that impact them. I’m proud of this bipartisan effort to support TCUs and their students and look forward to getting this bill across the finish line.” “The 35 accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the U.S., which together form the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, commend Senators Fischer and Tester for their leadership in introducing this important legislation. The National Advisory Council on Indian Education Act will ensure Tribal College and University voices are included and supported throughout the council’s work, thereby strengthening the K-16 pathway for American Indian and Alaska Native students. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this much needed legislation,”said Carrie L. Billy, President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. The National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE) advises the Secretaries of Education and Interior on programs serving Native students of all ages. NACIE releases an annual report, but neither Department has a process for considering NACIE’s

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Significant Investments to Support Economic Recovery for Tribal Nations in Minnesota

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced significant funding to help Tribal communities in Minnesota recover from economic dislocation caused by the pandemic. Nearly $5 million in grants will go towards projects that help people most impacted by the pandemic in the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – White Earth Band.  “This federal funding will make a real difference for Tribal communities across our state, helping connect them to high-quality job opportunities in high-demand sectors,” said Klobuchar. “I’ll keep pushing to ensure our Tribal communities have the economic resources they need to thrive.” “The pandemic took an economic toll on communities throughout Minnesota and disproportionately hurt people in disadvantaged communities,” said Smith. “These grants will help boost local economies in Native communities and help people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic get back on their feet. I will continue working to support Tribal communities and families across Minnesota as we enter a new phase in our economic recovery.” “Mille Lacs Band families were hard hit when the pandemic economy in rural Minnesota pushed many mothers and fathers off the payroll,” said Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “We are very appreciative of this grant because it will help our Tribal Government to empower our citizens who have been anxiously looking for new opportunities to rejoin the workforce.” These Quality Jobs, Equity, Strategy and Training (QUEST) Disaster Recovery grants

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Funding to Modernize Public Transit in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [8.18.22] – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that over $5.9 million in federal grants have been awarded to Tribal communities in Minnesota to upgrade and modernize their public transit systems. Specifically, the White Earth Nation will receive $3.6 million for new public transit facilities, the Prairie Island Indian Community will receive $1.6 million for electric buses, and $739,500 will go to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for low-emission buses and filling stations.  “Investments in public transit help reduce traffic and make it easier for Minnesotans to get to school, work, and other destinations,” said

U.S. Senators Smith and Lankford Introduce Legislation to Create Parity Within the Indian Health Care System

WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/12/22] – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced bipartisan legislation that would help achieve parity within the Indian Health System. The Urban Indian Health Confer Act will amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to confer with urban Indian organizations regarding health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in urban areas – a critical step that will create parity within the Indian Health System. “American Indian and Alaska Native people living in urban areas deserve an active voice in the policies that affect them,” said

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Leads U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Field Hearing on Infrastructure in Tribal Nations in Prior Lake

MINNESOTA — U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) chaired a productive field hearing for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, focusing on how Tribal Nations can utilize funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Senator Smith helped pass this historic investment in our country’s infrastructure last fall. The hearing was hosted by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at the Mystic Lake Center in Prior Lake. Click here to access photos from the hearing. A video of the hearing will become available here. “I was so excited to bring this field hearing to Minnesota to take a firsthand look at how the work we do in Washington can have

Klobuchar, Smith Secure Federal Funding to Boost Tribal Entrepreneurship at Mille Lacs Band

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $3.1 million in federal funding for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Onamia, Minnesota to boost tribal entrepreneurship. Specifically, the funding, provided through the American Rescue Plan’s Indigenous Communities program, will enable the construction of a tribal business incubator to help small businesses and start-ups access technical assistance they need to increase and expand their operations. “This federal funding will make a real difference for the Mille Lacs Band Reservation, helping establish a business incubator that will boost small

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