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 Leads U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Field Hearing on Infrastructure in Tribal Nations in Prior Lake

MINNESOTA — U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) chaired a productive field hearing for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, focusing on how Tribal Nations can utilize funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Senator Smith helped pass this historic investment in our country’s infrastructure last fall. The hearing was hosted by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at the Mystic Lake Center in Prior Lake. Click here to access photos from the hearing. A video of the hearing will become available here. “I was so excited to bring this field hearing to Minnesota to take a firsthand look at how the work we do in Washington can have a real impact on the lives of Native people,” said Sen. Smith. “The purpose of today was to uplift the voices of Tribal Leaders in Minnesota, to understand what their needs are, and how our historic investment in their communities through the Infrastructure Law can support them.” Infrastructure throughout Tribal Nations has historically been underfunded. Signed into law on November 15, 2022, the IIJA included record investments to provide affordable high-speed internet, safer roads and bridges, modern wastewater and sanitation systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good paying jobs for Tribal communities across the country. The law provides more than $13 billion in support for these communities and allows Tribes to request billions in other funding – making the IIJA the single largest investment in Tribal infrastructure ever. Today’s hearing featured six Tribal leaders from Minnesota as witnesses: “We are grateful for the opportunity to showcase some of our projects

Klobuchar, Smith Secure Federal Funding to Boost Tribal Entrepreneurship at Mille Lacs Band

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $3.1 million in federal funding for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Onamia, Minnesota to boost tribal entrepreneurship. Specifically, the funding, provided through the American Rescue Plan’s Indigenous Communities program, will enable the construction of a tribal business incubator to help small businesses and start-ups access technical assistance they need to increase and expand their operations. “This federal funding will make a real difference for the Mille Lacs Band Reservation, helping establish a business incubator that will boost small businesses and spur entrepreneurship,” said Klobuchar. “I’ll keep pushing to make sure our tribal communities have the resources they need to pursue economic opportunities.” “Minnesota’s Tribal Nations have deep cultural and economic significance across our state,” said Smith. “I am pleased to announce this investment in the Mille Lacs Band reservation in Minnesota, which will help to grow and diversify the local economy. This investment, made possible by the American Rescue Plan, will create jobs and generate private investment so that the local economy can build back stronger in the wake of the pandemic.” “President Biden is committed to ensuring that our communities are provided with the resources they need to diversify and grow their economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe business incubator project will spur private investment and job creation throughout the reservation.” This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan

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