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.
Senators Smith, Lummis Seek Key Clarifications to Address Native American and Rural Homelessness, Overcrowding
U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a letter to Secretary Marcia Fudge urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help address homelessness in Native and rural communities and to provide clarity on the federal definition of homelessness. The Senators are the Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development. The letter follows a bipartisan hearing led by Smith and Lummis on the “State of Native American Housing” where witnesses described the severe homelessness and overcrowding issues facing rural and Native American communities. “The stories we heard at our hearing are not isolated examples. Many Native and rural communities officially report low rates of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness, but have high rates of doubling up and overcrowding,” wrote the Senators. “Doubling up and overcrowding are likely more prevalent in rural communities that have fewer emergency shelter options and limited transportation options, so people struggle to get to the shelters that do exist. Studies confirm that some of the highest rates of overcrowding are experienced by people who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native and on tribal lands. Although these situations differ from the ways homelessness is often found in non-Native and non-rural communities, we believe they warrant close attention.” Witness testimony described how some individuals are living in “fish houses” or “ice shanties,” in the face of not being able to find a safe, secure and affordable place to live. Witnesses shared that Native families
U.S. Senator Tina Smith Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Tribal Self-Governance for Federal Food Assistance Program
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to give Tribes in Minnesota and across the country more control over how a key federal hunger program is administered in their communities. The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act would give Tribal governments a more active role in the administration of the USDA’s vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP). The bill would help make sure SNAP is administered in a culturally-appropriate way that promotes the health and economic well-being of Tribal communities. Federal programs to combat hunger like SNAP are important to Tribal communities—approximately 25 percent of Native Americans receive some type of federal food assistance, and in some Tribal communities, participation is as high as 80 percent. “Tribal governments understand what works best in their communities and should have more say over how SNAP is administered,” said Senator Smith. “The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act is about promoting Tribal sovereignty and helping Tribes fight hunger in a way that works best for them.” Self-governance authority allow Tribal governments to administer federal programs within their own communities—it is widely regarded as one of the most effective federal policies for Tribes. Self-governance policies make federal dollars work better to address the unique needs of Tribal communities. In 2018, the Farm Bill included the first ever self-governance expansion to USDA, with a pilot program within the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations that gave Tribes authority to procure the foods for distribution, including foods from
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
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that they have secured significant federal funding in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 federal budget to support local projects benefiting the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. These projects will bolster the region’s infrastructure, help expand health care access and upgrade health care facilities, address affordable housing needs, and improve public safety. “From making infrastructure improvements to expanding access to health care and affordable housing, these projects will help address key issues impacting Minnesotans on a daily basis. I am proud to have worked with local leaders to secure