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 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. 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

Senator Smith, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill Giving Tribal Colleges and Universities a Stronger Voice in Education Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), along with U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mon.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), introduced bipartisan legislation – the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act – aimed at giving Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) greater input over federal funding and policymaking that impacts them. “Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges are important institutions that serve Native and non-Native students alike in some of the most impoverished and geographically isolated regions of the country,” said Smith. “These institutions deserve a seat at the table when federal agencies make decisions that impact

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Significant Investments to Support Economic Recovery for Tribal Nations in Minnesota

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced significant funding to help Tribal communities in Minnesota recover from economic dislocation caused by the pandemic. Nearly $5 million in grants will go towards projects that help people most impacted by the pandemic in the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – White Earth Band.  “This federal funding will make a real difference for Tribal communities across our state, helping connect them to high-quality job opportunities in high-demand sectors,” said Klobuchar. “I’ll keep pushing to ensure our Tribal communities

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Funding to Modernize Public Transit in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [8.18.22] – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that over $5.9 million in federal grants have been awarded to Tribal communities in Minnesota to upgrade and modernize their public transit systems. Specifically, the White Earth Nation will receive $3.6 million for new public transit facilities, the Prairie Island Indian Community will receive $1.6 million for electric buses, and $739,500 will go to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for low-emission buses and filling stations.  “Investments in public transit help reduce traffic and make it easier for Minnesotans to get to school, work, and other destinations,” said

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