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, John Hoeven Introduce Legislation to Improve Key Native American Food Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.26.23] – This week, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to make the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) work better for Tribal communities. FDPIR provides food assistance for income-eligible Native households. In 2018, the Farm Bill reauthorization created a pilot program to allow self-governance contracting for procurement within FDPIR. The bipartisan FDPIR Tribal Food Sovereignty Act expands and makes that pilot program permanent. If enacted, the bill would allow Tribal governments to administer FDPIR for their community. “Every Native American community should have access to nutritious and culturally specific food,” said Smith. “This bipartisan bill will strengthen local food economies, empower Tribal governments, and provide healthy food to those who need it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this passed as part of the Farm Bill.” “This legislation is part of our broader efforts to promote Tribal self-governance and builds upon the pilot program I worked to include in the 2018 farm bill,” said Hoeven. “Our bill will not only give Tribes greater control over this important nutrition program, helping ensure that assistance gets to those who need it most, but will allow food to be sourced from more local producers, supporting the local economy.” Federal food programs are vital in many Native communities, with approximately 25 percent of Native Americans receiving some type of federal food assistance. In some Tribal communities, participation is as high as 80 percent. Self-governance

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Announces Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Housing, Health Care and Self-Governance in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.20.23] – This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), announced three pieces of her bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing key issues in Native communities passed the Senate. The bills would improve health care for urban Indigenous communities, strengthen self-governance agreements, and help increase homeownership in Native communities. All three pieces of legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for a vote. “Whenever I meet with Native leaders, three of the top issues I hear about are inadequate housing and health care and the importance of self-governance,” said Smith. “I worked with my Republican colleagues to introduce these pieces of legislation to take on these challenges and address the needs of Tribes in Minnesota and around the country. These bills would create easier pathways for homeownership in Native communities, improve the Indian Health System, and bolster self-governance agreements. I’m thrilled to see them pass the Senate and get one step closer to becoming law.” Senator Smith’s bills include:

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Statement on Supreme Court’s Brackeen Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. [6.15.23] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Haaland v. Brackeen, which left the federal law governing the placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes intact: “Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to confront a massive injustice: the forced removal of countless Native American children from their families and their communities. Today, the Supreme Court upheld that law and respected Tribes’ rights to govern themselves.  This is a welcome decision, but efforts to undermine Tribal sovereignty will no doubt continue, and I

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Coordination Between HHS and Urban Indian Organizations

WASHINGTON, [02.21.23] – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would help federal programs – from substance use treatment to Medicare and Medicaid – meet the unique needs of Indigenous communities and improve care. The Urban Indian Health Confer Act would 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 improve care for Indigenous communities and create parity between urban Indian organizations (UIOs) and other components of the

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Announces Significant Federal Funding for Tribal Nations and the Native Community in the Twin Cities

WASHINGTON D.C. [1/13/23] –– U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that she helped secure over $8.6 million for Minnesota Tribal Nations and communities in the Twin Cities metro area. These funds will support the Lower Sioux Indian Community, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Prairie Island Indian Community, the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis, and the Native American Community Clinic. Senator Klobuchar also worked to secure this funding. “For too long, Native communities have experienced negative impacts of federal underinvestment and underfunding of critical services. I’m proud to have worked with Tribal leaders to help

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Applauds Passage of Key Tribal Priorities From Mental Health Care to Homeownership in Government Funding Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. [1/13/23] — U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) applauded the bipartisan government funding bill, which includes a number of key Tribal provisions she has authored or championed. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which was signed into law by President Biden two weeks ago, will take important steps to help Native families achieve homeownership, provide culturally competent mental and behavioral health services, and provide adequate funding for the Indian Health Service. “This bill is a historic investment in hard working families in Minnesota and across this country,” said Sen. Smith. “It gives us the tools to make significant progress on upholding our