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. Sen. Tina Smith Announces Largest Ever Investment in Key Native Housing Program

WASHINGTON [5.12.22] — Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) – chair of the Senate’s Housing Subcommittee – announced Minnesota Tribes will receive the largest ever housing investment as part of a key federal program dedicated to improving housing on Native land. The $23 million in funding for Minnesota Tribes represents a more than $4 million increase from last year, which Sen. Smith had pushed for. “If you don’t have a safe, stable, affordable place to live, nothing else in your life works,” said Sen. Smith. “I’ve had the great privilege of visiting and meeting with Tribal leaders from Minnesota and heard firsthand how the affordable housing crisis impacts their communities. This funding will make a real impact for Native families who have been disproportionately impacted by the affordable housing crisis.” The increased funding comes after Smith pushed for more support in a letter last summer to leaders on the Senate subcommittee responsible for the program. “Funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant has remained mostly level since…1996, [yet] the need for adequate and sanitary housing has grown,” wrote Sen. Smith in her letter. Reports have found the number of Native Americans living in dilapidated houses or doubling up with neighbors has risen over the past two decades. In 2021, Sen. Smith convened the Senate’s Banking and Housing Committee’s first hearing on Native American housing in nearly a decade. The Subcommittee’s hearing highlighted the importance of fully funding the Indian Housing Block Grant, and featured testimony from two Minnesota witnesses.  The Indian Housing Block Grant is the largest source of funding for housing on Native land. The grants are awarded to

Klobuchar, Smith Secure Significant Federal Funding to Expand College Access for American Indian and Alaska Native Students

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) secured $500,000 in federal funding to expand a program at Saint Paul College focused on providing academic and social support to American Indian and Alaska Native students.  Specifically, the funding will help grow the Four Directions Pathway program at Saint Paul College. The program is designed to promote college access and success for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students through a culturally relevant lens. In 2020, AI/AN communities in Minnesota saw a degree attainment rate of 27.5%, a figure well below the state’s 70% attainment goal. Improving access to education for these communities will help to ensure a skilled workforce in the local economy and bolster the state’s vitality. “All students deserve the chance to pursue higher education, but too often and for too long, Native American students have faced barriers in their transition to college,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This funding will be critical to improving access to postsecondary education for Native American students and closing the opportunity gap that our tribal communities face.” “This federal funding will help Native students access and excel in higher education while strengthening our local workforce – a win-win,” said Sen. Smith. “I am proud of our work to secure this funding, which will promote college access and success for Native students and help build a strong, diverse workforce in and around St. Paul.” “We are grateful for the support of Senators Klobuchar and Smith. This congressionally-directed funding will make an immediate impact

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,

Sen. Tina Smith & Rep. Betty McCollum’s Bill to Restore 11k Acres of Land to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to be Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/03/20]—After passing the U.S. House of Representatives today, legislation authored by U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (MN-04) to restore over eleven-thousand acres of wrongly seized land to the Leech Lake Reservation is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law. “My colleague Representative McCollum and I worked to right this wrong and get this effort over the finish line, but above all I want to recognize the decades of work that Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe put into making this possible,” said Sen. Smith. “This historic win belongs to them and