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

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

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith & Representative Angie Craig Help Introduce Legislation to Expand Tribal

WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/16/20]—U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Congresswoman Angie Craig (MN-2) recently helped introduce bicameral legislation to help Tribes expand broadband in their communities. The Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2020—led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.)—will extend the deadline for Tribes to apply for spectrum licenses for unassigned spectrum over their own land. For far too long, Tribes haven’t been able to access spectrum licenses to deploy broadband and telephone networks over their land. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has only exacerbated the effects of the long-standing digital divide. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. [09/10/2020]—Today U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation to help Tribes access public health data and address health disparities that hit American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities especially hard. The Tribal Health Data Improvement Act would strengthen data sharing between Tribes, Tribal Epidemiology Centers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so Tribes can more effectively address public health challenges. Tribes and Tribal Epidemiology Centers are routinely denied access to important health data systems, despite having clearance to do so. Accessing federal and state public health data is critical for engaging in preventative public health work and combatting current health crises. Structural barriers to accessing data have been especially problematic during COVID-19, which has disproportionately

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Leads Fight to Provide Mental Health Care for American Indian & Alaska Native Youth During Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/27/20]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) recently led her Senate colleagues in demanding accessible, comprehensive, and culturally competent mental health care and related services for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth during the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to federal education and health officials, Sen. Smith and her colleagues said that AI/AN youth already faced mental and behavioral health challenges before the pandemic, and may have an especially hard time accessing care during COVID-19. Because many AI/AN students who seek mental health care do so at school, the administration must work to find solutions to reach AI/AN students while schools are closed. The digital divide in Indian Country will prevent some AI/AN students from