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

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Significant Investments to Support Economic Recovery for Tribal Nations in Minnesota

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced significant funding to help Tribal communities in Minnesota recover from economic dislocation caused by the pandemic. Nearly $5 million in grants will go towards projects that help people most impacted by the pandemic in the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe – White Earth Band.  “This federal funding will make a real difference for Tribal communities across our state, helping connect them to high-quality job opportunities in high-demand sectors,” said Klobuchar. “I’ll keep pushing to ensure our Tribal communities have the economic resources they need to thrive.” “The pandemic took an economic toll on communities throughout Minnesota and disproportionately hurt people in disadvantaged communities,” said Smith. “These grants will help boost local economies in Native communities and help people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic get back on their feet. I will continue working to support Tribal communities and families across Minnesota as we enter a new phase in our economic recovery.” “Mille Lacs Band families were hard hit when the pandemic economy in rural Minnesota pushed many mothers and fathers off the payroll,” said Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “We are very appreciative of this grant because it will help our Tribal Government to empower our citizens who have been anxiously looking for new opportunities to rejoin the workforce.” These Quality Jobs, Equity, Strategy and Training (QUEST) Disaster Recovery grants

Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Funding to Modernize Public Transit in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [8.18.22] – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that over $5.9 million in federal grants have been awarded to Tribal communities in Minnesota to upgrade and modernize their public transit systems. Specifically, the White Earth Nation will receive $3.6 million for new public transit facilities, the Prairie Island Indian Community will receive $1.6 million for electric buses, and $739,500 will go to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for low-emission buses and filling stations.  “Investments in public transit help reduce traffic and make it easier for Minnesotans to get to school, work, and other destinations,” said Klobuchar. “This federal funding will make a real difference in Tribal communities across our state, modernizing buses and bolstering transit efficiency so residents can safely and reliably get around their community.” “Each day, transit systems connect Minnesotans to their jobs, schools, grocery stores and countless other opportunities – all while reducing traffic congestion and pollution,” said Sen. Smith, Chair of the Senate Transit Subcommittee. “This funding will help modernize public transit in Tribal communities, while improving air quality and helping combat climate change. I am proud of our work to help make these grants more accessible for Tribal communities and will continue working to support public transportation across Minnesota.” “On behalf of myself and the other members of the RBC, we are proud to be one of the recipients of such a generous grant from the FTA,” said White Earth Reservation Business Committee (RBC) Chairman Michael Fairbanks. “Our goal is to always

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

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