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. Sen. Tina Smith Announces Largest Ever Investment in Key Native Housing Program

WASHINGTON [5.12.22] — Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) – chair of the Senate’s Housing Subcommittee – announced Minnesota Tribes will receive the largest ever housing investment as part of a key federal program dedicated to improving housing on Native land. The $23 million in funding for Minnesota Tribes represents a more than $4 million increase from last year, which Sen. Smith had pushed for. “If you don’t have a safe, stable, affordable place to live, nothing else in your life works,” said Sen. Smith. “I’ve had the great privilege of visiting and meeting with Tribal leaders from Minnesota and heard firsthand how the affordable housing crisis impacts their communities. This funding will make a real impact for Native families who have been disproportionately impacted by the affordable housing crisis.” The increased funding comes after Smith pushed for more support in a letter last summer to leaders on the Senate subcommittee responsible for the program. “Funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant has remained mostly level since…1996, [yet] the need for adequate and sanitary housing has grown,” wrote Sen. Smith in her letter. Reports have found the number of Native Americans living in dilapidated houses or doubling up with neighbors has risen over the past two decades. In 2021, Sen. Smith convened the Senate’s Banking and Housing Committee’s first hearing on Native American housing in nearly a decade. The Subcommittee’s hearing highlighted the importance of fully funding the Indian Housing Block Grant, and featured testimony from two Minnesota witnesses.  The Indian Housing Block Grant is the largest source of funding for housing on Native land. The grants are awarded to

Klobuchar, Smith Secure Significant Federal Funding to Expand College Access for American Indian and Alaska Native Students

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) secured $500,000 in federal funding to expand a program at Saint Paul College focused on providing academic and social support to American Indian and Alaska Native students.  Specifically, the funding will help grow the Four Directions Pathway program at Saint Paul College. The program is designed to promote college access and success for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students through a culturally relevant lens. In 2020, AI/AN communities in Minnesota saw a degree attainment rate of 27.5%, a figure well below the state’s 70% attainment goal. Improving access to education for these communities will help to ensure a skilled workforce in the local economy and bolster the state’s vitality. “All students deserve the chance to pursue higher education, but too often and for too long, Native American students have faced barriers in their transition to college,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This funding will be critical to improving access to postsecondary education for Native American students and closing the opportunity gap that our tribal communities face.” “This federal funding will help Native students access and excel in higher education while strengthening our local workforce – a win-win,” said Sen. Smith. “I am proud of our work to secure this funding, which will promote college access and success for Native students and help build a strong, diverse workforce in and around St. Paul.” “We are grateful for the support of Senators Klobuchar and Smith. This congressionally-directed funding will make an immediate impact

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith Secure $4+ Million for Tribal Nations

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/06/22]—U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that they have secured $4,199,000 for Minnesota Tribal Nations. These funds will support the communities of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “This federal funding will have a real impact for Minnesota’s Tribal Nations. From supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs to strengthening public safety infrastructure and increasing energy efficiency, these projects will address key issues impacting our Native communities on a daily basis. I am proud to have worked with Tribal leaders

Sen. Smith’s Bipartisan Bill to Help Tribes Pursue Justice for Crimes of Sexual Violence Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON [03/24/22]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—announced that her bipartisan legislation, which will restore Tribal criminal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Native offenders on Tribal lands, was signed into law. According to the National Institute of Justice, over half of all Native American women—56 percent—and more than one in four Native men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. And among those, almost all—96 percent of women and 89 percent of men—were victimized by a non-Native offender. Yet, few survivors ever see justice. The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence

Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Legislation to Ensure Accurate, Thorough Education about Native Peoples

WASHINGTON [3.24.22] – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that she has introduced significant legislation to improve public education and understanding about Native 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

U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s Bill to Give Justice to Survivors of Sexual Violence in Native American Communities Takes Key Step Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/10/22] —Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said her bill to restore Tribal Nations’ rights to prosecute crimes of sexual violence—including assault, trafficking and stalking—took a key step forward in the Senate. Currently, Native communities cannot prosecute those crimes if they are committed by a non-Native member on Tribal land.  Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said her bill “Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act” was included in the legislation that will reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, legislation that expired in 2019. Sen. Smith’s bill aims to ensure justice for Native

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