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

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 from across the state to secure the resources for these projects, and I look forward to seeing all the good they will do,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Minnesota’s Tribal Nations have so much cultural and economic significance across our state. This funding will have a substantial impact in supporting these communities,” said Senator Smith. “Each of these projects will create tangible changes in Native peoples’ lives ­– whether it’s creating safer communities by investing in Tribal law enforcement, supporting new Native businesses, or ensuring a community center is equipped with the utilities necessary to continue bringing people together.” Fond du Lac Law Enforcement and Emergency Management Building They will receive $2,742,000 to construct a new law enforcement and emergency management building. This funding will help expand office space, storage and garage space and will add conference space to conduct regional meetings for their cross jurisdictional work. “The Fond du Lac Band

U.S. Senator Tina Smith & U.S. Representative Gwen Moore Push to Empower Tribes to Pursue Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/7/21] —Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) —a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—and U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) are pushing to make it easier to address violence against Native peoples by expanding Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence. The “Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act” aims to get justice for survivors of sexual violence by restoring Tribal jurisdiction to prosecute cases of domestic and sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking, and other related crimes committed by non-Native offenders on Tribal lands. The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act is co-sponsored in the

U.S. Sens. Smith & Cramer, Reps. Pallone & Ruiz Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Mental & Behavioral Health Care Resources for Indian Health Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/1/2021]—U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Representatives Frank Pallone (D-N.J.-06) and Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.-36) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities, Tribal health programs and urban Indian health organizations address mental and behavioral health needs in their communities. Right now, only 39 percent of IHS facilities provide 24-hour mental health crisis intervention services, and 10 percent of IHS facilities do not provide any crisis intervention services at all. A survey conducted by IHS found that Tribes rated the expansion of inpatient and outpatient mental health and substance abuse facilities as their number one priority. The Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement

U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Mike Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Native American Rural Homeownership Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. [6/24/21]—U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) are pressing bipartisan legislation to help Native families living in rural areas achieve homeownership. Right now, the homeownership rate for Native American households is around 54 percent, while the rate for white households is 72 percent. A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development also found that Native households often face higher mortgage costs when seeking to buy a home, especially when those loans are made on reservation lands. Sens. Smith and Rounds want to leverage the deep community ties of Native Community

Klobuchar, Smith, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Extend Tribal Broadband Application Deadline

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined 13 colleagues in reintroducing the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act to expand the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window. This legislation will help Tribal nations apply for spectrum licenses for unassigned spectrum over their own lands – a critical step to expanding broadband access in their communities.    “In 2021, every family in America should have access to high-speed internet, regardless of their zip code,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation is key to eliminating barriers to broadband access for Native communities — an important step forward as we work to bridge