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

U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Chris Murphy and Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán Introduce Legislation to Improve Conditions Exacerbating Health Inequities Among Black, Brown, Indigenous and People of Color

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.-44) introduced legislation to study and address how social, environmental, and economic conditions exacerbate health inequities in Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color. These conditions, known as social determinants of health (SDOH), are the result of institutional racism embedded in our society including in housing, employment, education, health care and more. While it’s often believed that good health is only due to medical care, one estimate found that clinical treatment accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s overall health. Meanwhile, around 80 to 90 percent of healthy outcomes are driven by social determinants. “For many Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color, health outcomes like chronic disease and overall longevity are determined by factors out of their control, often rooted in institutional racism and lasting inequities. Supporting healthy families and communities means more than just access tomedical care – it’s also having a safe place to call home, jobs, adequate food and more,” said Senator Smith. “This legislation will help us chart a better path forward to rectify historical injustices and ensure everyone has the chance to live a healthy life.” “When you don’t have a safe, stable place to live, or you can’t find affordable, nutritious food in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to develop chronic health issues that cost you thousands in medical bills. These structural inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and can have really devastating consequences for peoples’ health. I’m glad to team up with Senator Smith on this legislation to make a worthwhile investment in helping communities create healthy environments and improve long-term health outcomes,” said

U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar Announce STEM Education Funding for Minnesota Tribal Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON [2/14/2024] – Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs and Education Committees, and Amy Klobuchar (both D-Minn.) announced funding for White Earth Tribal and Community College and Red Lake Nation College to expand their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The funding comes from the National Science Foundation and is part of a larger project to promote education and careers in STEM for Indigenous students. “STEM education has never been more important as the demand for STEM-trained employees has soared,” said Senator Smith. “This funding will provide accessible pathways for Native students to pursue higher education and serve their communities – all while integrating Tribal cultural heritage and roots into their curriculum.” “Expanding higher education offerings can be a real game changer for students,” said Senator Klobuchar. “These National Science Foundation awards will open doors for White Earth Tribal and Community College and Red Lake Nation College students to learn essential skills for in-demand careers while ensuring Ojibwe language and culture remain key components of their education.” White Earth Tribal and Community College was awarded $2,500,000 to begin offering an associate’s degree in natural sciences, with coursework including biology, chemistry and physics. Having this coursework available to White Earth students will help graduates access good jobs and further education in high-demand fields such as health sciences.  Red Lake Nation College will use their $2,500,000 in funding to expand curriculum in social and behavioral sciences, with coursework rooted in the Ojibwe language and culture. Given the high demand in Tribal areas for workers in social services, this program will strengthen the talent pipeline for graduates to fill that need.  Senator Smith has long been a lead advocate for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).  In addition to

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith Celebrate Selection of Minnesota Tribe for Innovative, Culturally Responsive Social Services Pilot Program

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-Minn.) celebrated news that the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was selected for the Tiwahe Program Social Services Demonstration Project, an innovative program that allows participating Tribal Nations to integrate certain services for their members and incorporate culturally-appropriate components. Tiwahe, which means “family” in the Lakota language, focuses on job placement and training, social services, housing, wellness, and various courts to give Tribal Nations the ability to make these programs work best for their communities. “The Tiwahe Program gives Tribes the flexibility to design family and social services programs that fit the specific needs of

Senator Tina Smith Introduces Legislation to Ensure Accurate, Thorough Education About Native Peoples

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced significant legislation to improve public education and understanding about Native American peoples and their histories. Accurate, thorough education about Native peoples benefits all students, Native and non-Native alike. Unfortunately, the education most students receive regarding Native histories and cultures is woefully inadequate. For example, nearly half of Americans say that what they were taught in schools about Native Americans was inaccurate and in most K-12 classrooms, students are not taught about Native peoples at all post-1900. Furthermore, teachers rate “history of Native American peoples” and “pre-Columbian American history and culture” as

Senators Smith, Lummis Seek Key Clarifications to Address Native American and Rural Homelessness, Overcrowding

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a letter to Secretary Marcia Fudge urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help address homelessness in Native and rural communities and to provide clarity on the federal definition of homelessness. The Senators are the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development. The letter follows a bipartisan hearing led by Smith and Lummis on the  “State of Native American Housing” where witnesses described the severe homelessness and overcrowding issues facing rural and Native American communities.  “The stories we

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Tribal Self-Governance for Federal Food Assistance Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to give Tribes in Minnesota and across the country more control over how a key federal hunger program is administered in their communities. The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act would give Tribal governments a more active role in the administration of the USDA’s vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP). The bill would help make sure SNAP is administered in a culturally-appropriate way that promotes the health and economic well-being of Tribal communities. Federal programs to combat hunger like SNAP are important to Tribal

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