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. Senator Tina Smith Leads 29 Colleagues in Push for Robust Rural Housing Funding

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led 29 of her Senate colleagues in a push for more funding for rural housing programs in the FY2025 Appropriations bill. In their letter, the Senators noted that rural communities saw only a 1.7% increase in the number of housing units between 2010 and 2020, with almost half of states seeing a decrease in the number of rural units. According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, every county in Minnesota has a shortage of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income households. 79% of counties have a shortage that exceeds 100 homes, and 31% have a shortage exceeding 500 homes. “Without a safe, decent, affordable place to call home, nothing in your life works – not your job, your health, your education or your family,” said Senator Smith. “While the housing crisis is hurting communities across the country, the burden has been especially hard on small towns and rural communities. The severe shortage of affordable housing is hurting rural America’s ability to prosper, and it is imperative we direct more funding to address this housing shortage and finally bring our communities some relief.  “Against this backdrop, federal rural housing programs have shrunk to the point that only about 3,500 direct loans are available for low-income families to purchase or build their own home, the lowest level since 1957. Funding to preserve rental and farm labor housing is meager by any standard and by no means adequate to provide new housing opportunities or preserve existing housing resources,” wrote the Senators. “In the coming years, the number of maturing Section 515 mortgages will

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Celebrates Red Lake, Inc. Trade Mission to India

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, celebrated that Red Lake Nation’s Red Lake, Inc. will be participating in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agribusiness trade mission to New Delhi, India at the end of the month. 47 diverse businesses and organizations will join Under Secretary Alexis M. Taylor on the mission, and Red Lake will be the only representative from a Native or Tribal community. “We need to support all farmers—and that includes making sure we’re advocating for Native farmers who may face unique and challenging barriers to successfully owning and operating farms,” said Sen. Smith. “This trade mission to India will be a great opportunity for Red Lake to cultivate new markets for their agriculture products.” While on the trade mission, participants will engage in targeted meetings and site visits to build new trade linkages, strengthen existing partnerships, observe U.S. products in the marketplace, and discover the latest Indian consumer food trends. Participants will also receive in-depth market briefings from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and industry trade experts. Dating back to 2018, Senator Smith has pushed for Tribal inclusion on USDA trade missions. She joined colleagues from New Mexico, Montana, and North Dakota to send a letter to then Secretary Sonny Perdue to more fully incorporate tribes into these trade missions. ###

U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar Announce Clean Energy Support for Three Minnesota Tribes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Amy Klobuchar (both D-Minn.) announced federal funding to connect Tribal homes to clean electricity, including homes previously not connected to electricity at all. Minnesota Tribes selected for funding include Prairie Island Indian Community, Red Lake Nation and Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. The grants are made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which Senators Smith and Klobuchar both supported. “For generations, Native communities have been hurt by underinvestment and underfunding of basic infrastructure. Our transition to a clean energy economy can’t leave Indian Country behind,” said Senator Smith. “This funding gets us closer to ensuring every household in Minnesota,

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

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

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

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