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 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 outcomes like chronic disease and overall longevity are determined by factors out of their control, often rooted in institutional racism and lasting inequities. Supporting healthy families and communities means more than just access tomedical care – it’s also having a safe place to call home, jobs, adequate food and more,” said Senator Smith. “This legislation will help us chart a better path forward to rectify historical injustices and ensure everyone has the chance to live a healthy life.” “When you don’t have a safe, stable place to live, or you can’t find affordable, nutritious food in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to develop chronic health issues that cost you thousands in medical bills. These structural inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and can have really devastating consequences for peoples’ health. I’m glad to team up with Senator Smith on this legislation to make a worthwhile investment in helping communities create healthy environments and improve long-term health outcomes,” said

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 and roots into their curriculum.” “Expanding higher education offerings can be a real game changer for students,” said Senator Klobuchar. “These National Science Foundation awards will open doors for White Earth Tribal and Community College and Red Lake Nation College students to learn essential skills for in-demand careers while ensuring Ojibwe language and culture remain key components of their education.” White Earth Tribal and Community College was awarded $2,500,000 to begin offering an associate’s degree in natural sciences, with coursework including biology, chemistry and physics. Having this coursework available to White Earth students will help graduates access good jobs and further education in high-demand fields such as health sciences.  Red Lake Nation College will use their $2,500,000 in funding to expand curriculum in social and behavioral sciences, with coursework rooted in the Ojibwe language and culture. Given the high demand in Tribal areas for workers in social services, this program will strengthen the talent pipeline for graduates to fill that need.  Senator Smith has long been a lead advocate for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).  In addition to

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Statement on Supreme Court’s Brackeen Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. [6.15.23] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Haaland v. Brackeen, which left the federal law governing the placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes intact: “Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to confront a massive injustice: the forced removal of countless Native American children from their families and their communities. Today, the Supreme Court upheld that law and respected Tribes’ rights to govern themselves.  This is a welcome decision, but efforts to undermine Tribal sovereignty will no doubt continue, and I

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

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