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

Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Legislation to Ensure Accurate, Thorough Education about Native Peoples

WASHINGTON [3.24.22] – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that she has introduced significant legislation to improve public education and understanding about Native peoples and their histories. Accurate, thorough education about Native peoples benefits all students, Native and non-Native alike. Unfortunately, the education most students receive regarding Native histories and cultures is woefully inadequate. For example, nearly half of Americans say that what they were taught in schools about Native Americans was inaccurate and in most K-12 classrooms, students are not taught about Native peoples at all post-1900. Furthermore, teachers rate “history of Native American peoples” and “pre-Columbian American history and culture” as two of the worst subjects in terms of coverage and accuracy. These glaring educational deficiencies allow negative stereotypes and misconceptions to take hold and persist. This legislation is endorsed by: National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, National Indian Child Welfare Association, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Elementary School Principals “It is unacceptable that so many Americans are under and misinformed about Native peoples and their history,” said Senator Smith. “Teachers and Native groups around the country have been sounding the alarm and pushing for action on this issue for years, and it’s time we listened. This legislation would help develop accurate and thorough curriculum for our schools so that harmful misconceptions and stereotypes do not persist.” “For far too

U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s Bill to Give Justice to Survivors of Sexual Violence in Native American Communities Takes Key Step Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. [2/10/22] —Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said her bill to restore Tribal Nations’ rights to prosecute crimes of sexual violence—including assault, trafficking and stalking—took a key step forward in the Senate. Currently, Native communities cannot prosecute those crimes if they are committed by a non-Native member on Tribal land.  Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said her bill “Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act” was included in the legislation that will reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, legislation that expired in 2019. Sen. Smith’s bill aims to ensure justice for Native survivors of sexual violence by expanding 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. “For far too long the federal government has failed Native survivors when it comes to prosecuting offenders,” said Sen. Smith. “Given the staggering rates of sexual violence committed against Native persons, it is critical that we pass this bipartisan VAWA reauthorization with my provision to provide Tribes with the tools to support survivors.” In December 2021, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs considered this provision in an oversight hearing titled “Restoring Justice: Addressing Violence in Native Communities through VAWA Title IX Special Jurisdiction.”  The Committee heard testimony from administration officials, Tribal leaders, and legal experts on the importance of this expanded jurisdiction. Reports from the National Institute of Justice found that over half of all Native American women—56 percent—and more

U.S. Senator Tina Smith in Senate Floor Speech Says Congress Must Address the Public Health and Economic Crisis of COVID-19 in Tribal Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/01/20]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) took to the Senate floor to raise the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on Native American communities in the United States, and to call on the Trump Administration and Congress to uphold its trust and treaty responsibilities by addressing the urgent needs of Tribes across the country. In her speech, Sen. Smith called for Congress to provide support to Tribal governments so they can respond to COVID-19 and provide essential services for Tribal members, and also highlighted the need to fully fund the Indian Health Service and housing programs. You can watch video of

U.S. Senators Tina Smith and James Lankford Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Health Care Resources for Urban Indian Health Organizations Amid Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/07/20]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced bipartisan legislation to boost health resources for urban Indian health organizations as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces many to grapple with financial hardship and even close operations.   The Coverage for Urban Indian Health Providers Act, also co-sponsored Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), would amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to create parity within the Indian Health System (ITU system).  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

U.S. Senator Tina Smith to Mnuchin: Disburse $8 Billion in Critical COVID-19 Relief to Tribal Governments Immediately

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/1/20]— U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to immediately disburse $8 billion in critical relief funds to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments. Sen. Smith. says that this emergency assistance, which was secured in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, is critical to helping Tribal governments—just like their state, local, and territorial counterparts—respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing essential government services to their communities. But as of May 1, the Treasury Department has not distributed any of this funding. “The CARES Act was passed over a month ago and contained an express statutory deadline for distribution of the CRF to Tribal governments;

U.S. Senator Tina Smith, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan: Coronavirus Relief Funding Meant for Tribes Should Go To Tribal Governments, Not Corporations

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/16/20]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan voiced concerns over the Trump Administration’s apparent move to send a portion of CARES Act relief intended for Tribal governments to for-profit Alaska Native corporations. The CARES Act provides $8 billion in critical relief to Tribal governments so they can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to provide essential government services. The U.S. Treasury Department is required to distribute the $8 billion by April 24, but the Trump Administration is already signaling that it is putting for-profit corporations ahead of Tribal governments and Tribal members. Sen. Smith and Lt. Gov.