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 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

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 Act aims to help survivors of sexual violence by allowing Tribes to prosecute cases of sexual violence, domestic and dating violence, sex trafficking, stalking, and obstruction of justice related to these crimes committed by non-Native perpetrators. “For a long time we’ve known that an alarming number of Native people endure sexual violence, and we have the research to show the staggering rate of sexual violence committed by non-Native perpetrators in Indian Country. The federal government has failed Native survivors when it comes to prosecuting offenders,” said Sen. Smith. “I am proud of our efforts to pass this bipartisan legislation and support survivors seeking the justice they deserve.” The bill was included in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization, which passed the Senate this month. Federal or state investigations into sexual violence on Tribal lands rarely results in prosecution. According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, between

U.S. Senators Tina Smith & Lisa Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Tribes Combat COVID-19, Other Public Health Crises

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/3/2021]— U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation to help Tribes address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and other public health challenges. The Tribal Health Data Improvement Act would strengthen data sharing between Tribes, Tribal Epidemiology Centers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the past year, Tribes and Tribal Epidemiology Centers have been denied access to public health data about the virus spreading near Tribal lands, despite their authority to receive this data. This severely limits the ability of Tribal communities to prevent and combat health crises, and represents yet another broken promise by the federal government. These structural barriers to accessing

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Says Senate-Passed COVID-19 Relief Package Will Help Tribal Communities Recover From Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. [3/6/21]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed by the Senate today includes more than $31 billion she pushed to help Tribal governments and urban Indigenous communities in Minnesota and across the country address the health and economic fallout from the pandemic. She said the funding represents the largest single infusion of resources for Tribal Nations in U.S. history. Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said that during the pandemic, Indigenous Americans who contract COVID-19 have been hospitalized at nearly four times the rate of non-Hispanic white Americans, and they die

U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s Bipartisan Bills to Help Tribes Combat Homelessness & Help More Native Families Become Homeowners to be Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/22/20]—Two bipartisan bills led by U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) to help Tribes combat homelessness and to help Native families become homeowners are headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law as part of Congress’ year-end appropriations package.  The Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act—led by Sen. Smith and co-led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—will make Tribes eligible to apply for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s homeless assistance funds through the Continuum of Care program. While Tribal leaders in Minnesota and across the country have been working diligently to address housing insecurity in Tribal areas, Tribes and Tribally designated housing entities have

U.S. Senators Tina Smith and James Lankford’s Bipartisan Bill to Expand Health Care Resources for Urban Indian Health Organizations Clears Senate and House

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/21/20]—Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) to strengthen health resources for urban Indian health organizations amid the pandemic passed the Senate yesterday and the House earlier last week. The legislation will amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to create parity within the Indian Health Service system (ITU system). It next heads to the President to be signed into law. The ITU system is made up of the Indian Health Service, Tribal health programs, and urban Indian organizations (UIOs). UIOs provide culturally competent care for the over 70 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in urban centers,