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 Announces Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Housing, Health Care and Self-Governance in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.20.23] – This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), announced three pieces of her bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing key issues in Native communities passed the Senate. The bills would improve health care for urban Indigenous communities, strengthen self-governance agreements, and help increase homeownership in Native communities. All three pieces of legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for a vote. “Whenever I meet with Native leaders, three of the top issues I hear about are inadequate housing and health care and the importance of self-governance,” said Smith. “I worked with my Republican colleagues to introduce these pieces of legislation to take on these challenges and address the needs of Tribes in Minnesota and around the country. These bills would create easier pathways for homeownership in Native communities, improve the Indian Health System, and bolster self-governance agreements. I’m thrilled to see them pass the Senate and get one step closer to becoming law.” Senator Smith’s bills include:

U.S. Senator Tina Smith Statement on Supreme Court’s Brackeen Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. [6.15.23] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Haaland v. Brackeen, which left the federal law governing the placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes intact: “Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to confront a massive injustice: the forced removal of countless Native American children from their families and their communities. Today, the Supreme Court upheld that law and respected Tribes’ rights to govern themselves.  This is a welcome decision, but efforts to undermine Tribal sovereignty will no doubt continue, and I am fiercely committed to defending the law and upholding our responsibilities to Tribal Nations.”

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith Secure $4+ Million for Tribal Nations

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/06/22]—U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that they have secured $4,199,000 for Minnesota Tribal Nations. These funds will support the communities of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “This federal funding will have a real impact for Minnesota’s Tribal Nations. From supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs to strengthening public safety infrastructure and increasing energy efficiency, these projects will address key issues impacting our Native communities on a daily basis. I am proud to have worked with Tribal leaders

Sen. Smith’s Bipartisan Bill to Help Tribes Pursue Justice for Crimes of Sexual Violence Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON [03/24/22]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—announced that her bipartisan legislation, which will restore Tribal criminal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Native offenders on Tribal lands, was signed into law. According to the National Institute of Justice, over half of all Native American women—56 percent—and more than one in four Native men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes. And among those, almost all—96 percent of women and 89 percent of men—were victimized by a non-Native offender. Yet, few survivors ever see justice. The Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence

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

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