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 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 Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Urban Indian Health Confer Act which will help to facilitate the open and free exchange of information and opinions between federal agencies and urban Indian organizations. It is a critical step towards creating parity within the Indian Health System.” “We need the Department of Health and Human Services to communicate with all the Indian health organizations, including those serving urban areas, which is currently a disconnect in the process for Indian health care,” said Sen. Lankford. “Oklahoma has the second-largest urban Indian patient population, proudly serving patients in clinics in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Our common-sense bill ensures urban Indian organizations can partner with HHS just like any other federal health entity.” “Agencies have been operating as if only IHS has a trust obligation to AI/ANs, and that causes an undue burden to IHS to be in

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 a real impact on the lives of Native people,” said Sen. Smith. “The purpose of today was to uplift the voices of Tribal Leaders in Minnesota, to understand what their needs are, and how our historic investment in their communities through the Infrastructure Law can support them.” Infrastructure throughout Tribal Nations has historically been underfunded. Signed into law on November 15, 2022, the IIJA included record investments to provide affordable high-speed internet, safer roads and bridges, modern wastewater and sanitation systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good paying jobs for Tribal communities across the country. The law provides more than $13 billion in support for these communities and allows Tribes to request billions in other funding – making the IIJA the single largest investment in Tribal infrastructure ever. Today’s hearing featured six Tribal leaders from Minnesota as witnesses: “We are grateful for the opportunity to showcase some of our projects

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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