U.S Senator Tina Smith Addresses the 2019 National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Policy Summit 
Senator Tells National Congress of American Indians She’ll Press
Legislation to Provide Budget Certainty for Critical Programs, Address Violence Against Tribal Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [02/12/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) addressed Native American leaders from around the country during the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Tribal Nations Policy Summit in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said she will continue efforts to ensure budget certainty for critical tribal programs and address violence—particularly sexual violence—against Native communities.

“Let me be clear: the federal government abdicates its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to fill in the gaps of health care, childcare, and nutrition assistance,” Sen. Smith said. “…[O]ut of deep respect for the legal relationship between sovereign tribes and the federal government, I helped introduce a bill, led by New Mexico Senator and Vice Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee Tom Udall, to provide advance appropriations for critical programming in Indian Country…We need to do this, so tribal nations have budget certainty for health care, education, law enforcement, and other essential functions.

“An alarming number of Native women and men endure violence in their lifetimes, and

we know that these crimes are often committed by non-Native people in Indian Country.

“We took an important step by introducing the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, my bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has also been a strong leader on this issue. Our bill would restore to tribes the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, stalking and sex trafficking, committed by non-Indian offenders on tribal land.” 

Last month, Senator Smith—along with Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—introduced two major, bipartisan bills to address violence against Native women, children, and tribal law enforcement: the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act and the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 restored the ability of tribes to arrest and prosecute non-Indian offenders for acts of domestic violence committed on tribal lands, but it did not restore tribal authority to arrest or prosecute crimes of sexual violence, threatened domestic violence, violence against children, or violence committed against law enforcement personnel enforcing special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction. 

Senator Smith is the leader of the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act—a bipartisan bill to address sexual violence on Indian reservations by restoring tribal authority to prosecute cases of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.

Also in January, Senator Smith helped to introduce the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA)—led by Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-N.M.)—to authorize advance resources for programs and services within the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

You can read the full remarks as prepared for delivery below and view two photos from the event here and here:

NCAI Speech

Senator Tina Smith

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this year’s NCAI annual summit. Thank you to President Keel, and hello to all my friends from Minnesota who are here today.

I want to start by acknowledging Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who spoke just before me. Congresswoman Haaland is a strong new voice in Congress, and it’s an honor to share the podium with her. Congresswoman Haaland represents New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, serving much of Albuquerque— the community where I was born. 

I grew up in Northern New Mexico — and my colleagues Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall point out that I’m the only US Senator currently serving born in New Mexico. So, I stand before you proud of my New Mexico roots and deeply honored to serve Minnesota in the United States Senate.

Representative Haaland is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress—alongside Sharice Davids of Kansas—and her election represents the progress we need, so that Congress looks like all the people of this great country, including Native people and women. 

My favorite part of the State of the Union address last week was when the President noted the new jobs he and his administration created for women in the last year, and the women in Congress, wearing white, stood up in triumph. I believe he said, “You weren’t supposed to do that!” But this is exactly what we are supposed to do.

Congresswoman Haaland was one of those women, and yesterday, she delivered the response to the State of Indian Nations address where she spoke of what her election means for Native representation in Congress, the generations of failed federal policies, and the resilience of tribal communities.

After I finish, you will have a chance to hear from a remarkable leader, and very close friend of mine, Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. 

Lt. Governor Flanagan, the highest ranking native woman elected to executive office in the United States, was my guest at the State of the Union.

Peggy is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and she serves Minnesota with strength and an unshakable determination to bridge the differences that divide us. And the only way to do this is by making sure Native people in Minnesota, and across the country, have a seat at the table of power.

I would like to talk briefly about two issues affecting America’s tribal nations and urban Indian communities. 

The first is the threat looming this week of another federal government shutdown. These shutdowns – potentially the 4th since Trump became President—are unnecessary, wasteful, and deeply harmful to Americans. And Native communities are amongst the hardest hit.

In Minnesota, Bois Forte tribal police officers remained on duty, but went unpaid. And others, like the Red Lake Nation, were forced to make tough budget decisions when determining how to continue critical programs and pay employees. 

Let me be clear: the federal government abdicates its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to fill in the gaps of health care, childcare, and nutrition assistance. 

I saw firsthand the impacts of the shutdown when I visited the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis. It’s unconscionable when families struggle to feed their children because we can’t get our work done in Washington, DC.

It’s important to remember also that the consequences of a shutdown in Indian Country last long after the government reopens. For example, it leaves a sense of uncertainty that makes it even harder to recruit people to work in the Indian Health Service.

With these challenges in mind, and out of deep respect for the legal relationship between sovereign tribes and the federal government, I helped introduce a bill, led by New Mexico Senator and Vice Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee Tom Udall, to provide advance appropriations for critical programming in Indian Country. This bill would authorize funding one year in advance of the fiscal year for programs within the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We need to do this, so tribal nations have budget certainty for health care, education, law enforcement, and other essential functions.

My seat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is a position I take very seriously, and I’m honored to take up the work of other progressive Minnesota Senators like Al Franken and Paul Wellstone. I feel a strong responsibility to use this position to lift up the voices of Minnesota’s 11 Dakota and Ojibwe nations, its vibrant urban indigenous population, and all the sovereign tribal nations in America. 

I’m guided by the legal and moral principles of self-determination and self-governance for tribal nations, and my lifelong experience that those who do the work know best what will work. Tribal governments know best how the federal government should fulfill its obligations in Indian Country.

This leads me to the second issue I would like to talk about with you before I close: the scourge of violent crime in Indian Country and against Native communities.

An alarming number of Native women and men endure violence in their lifetimes, and

we know that these crimes are often committed by non-Native people in Indian Country. Yet tribes are unable to take action against these offenders, and the federal government too often fails to investigate and prosecute these crimes. We can’t even get decent data about what is happening, let alone address this denial of justice for native women and men.

We took an important step by introducing the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, my bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has also been a strong leader on this issue. Our bill would restore to tribes the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, stalking and sex trafficking, committed by non-Indian offenders on tribal land. 

I’m going to fight to get this bipartisan bill passed and signed into law. I plan to do that by working to include my bill into the Violence Against Women Act when Congress works to reauthorize the Act. 

There is a lot of work to do here, and state groups are showing tremendous leadership.

In my state, Native organizations in the Twin Cities like the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition are partnering with local law enforcement, and policy makers to raise up these issues. On Valentines Day, advocacy groups will hold an annual march in remembrance of missing and murdered indigenous women. Grassroots action like this is so important to raise awareness and demand justice for these women.

Leaders in the Minnesota State Legislature, along with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, are working to create a Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, with dedicated funding to create a database of missing persons to take action to end this tragic and invisible crisis.

Cases of missing and murdered indigenous women aren’t just missing from the news cycle— a recent study by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that of nearly six thousand cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, only 116 of those cases were logged into a Department of Justice database. And some of those cases that study discovered weren’t even in law enforcement records.

I want to acknowledge the leadership of my former colleague Senator Heitkamp, and current colleagues Lisa Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto, who have pushed forward Savanna’s Act, giving attention to a silent crisis by improving the federal government’s response, increasing coordination with law enforcement, and improving data collection. I can tell you I will carry on this fight. 

Today I’ve focused in on two issues, but there are many ways that we can work together in the coming years.

President Keel mentioned a variety of challenges facing Native communities yesterday in his address, among those, he mentioned the Farm Bill. I’d like to recognize the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for their work in creating the Seeds of Native Health and their work that supported the Native Farm Bill Coalition. Shakopee is rightfully receiving an award for helping to secure so many wins for tribal nations in the Farm Bill.

I also want to thank President Keel for mentioning federal contract employees who serve Indian Country. These workers have not, and will not, receive back pay unless Congress acts. I’ve been leading a bipartisan fight to secure back pay for federal contract workers in the Senate. And we need to get this done. It’s an issue of economic fairness that both sides of the aisle should support and get signed into law.

We have a lot of work to do, and I’m here today to commit that I will work shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight for justice.

Thank you again. I’m honored to be with you this morning, and I’m proud to serve with you, and grateful for your leadership. I look forward to working with you in the Senate. 

###

U.S Senator Tina Smith Addresses the 2019 National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Policy Summit 
Senator Tells National Congress of American Indians She’ll Press
Legislation to Provide Budget Certainty for Critical Programs, Address Violence Against Tribal Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [02/12/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) addressed Native American leaders from around the country during the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Tribal Nations Policy Summit in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said she will continue efforts to ensure budget certainty for critical tribal programs and address violence—particularly sexual violence—against Native communities.

“Let me be clear: the federal government abdicates its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to fill in the gaps of health care, childcare, and nutrition assistance,” Sen. Smith said. “…[O]ut of deep respect for the legal relationship between sovereign tribes and the federal government, I helped introduce a bill, led by New Mexico Senator and Vice Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee Tom Udall, to provide advance appropriations for critical programming in Indian Country…We need to do this, so tribal nations have budget certainty for health care, education, law enforcement, and other essential functions.

“An alarming number of Native women and men endure violence in their lifetimes, and

we know that these crimes are often committed by non-Native people in Indian Country.

“We took an important step by introducing the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, my bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has also been a strong leader on this issue. Our bill would restore to tribes the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, stalking and sex trafficking, committed by non-Indian offenders on tribal land.” 

Last month, Senator Smith—along with Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—introduced two major, bipartisan bills to address violence against Native women, children, and tribal law enforcement: the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act and the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 restored the ability of tribes to arrest and prosecute non-Indian offenders for acts of domestic violence committed on tribal lands, but it did not restore tribal authority to arrest or prosecute crimes of sexual violence, threatened domestic violence, violence against children, or violence committed against law enforcement personnel enforcing special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction. 

Senator Smith is the leader of the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act—a bipartisan bill to address sexual violence on Indian reservations by restoring tribal authority to prosecute cases of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking.

Also in January, Senator Smith helped to introduce the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA)—led by Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-N.M.)—to authorize advance resources for programs and services within the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

You can read the full remarks as prepared for delivery below and view two photos from the event here and here:

NCAI Speech

Senator Tina Smith

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this year’s NCAI annual summit. Thank you to President Keel, and hello to all my friends from Minnesota who are here today.

I want to start by acknowledging Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who spoke just before me. Congresswoman Haaland is a strong new voice in Congress, and it’s an honor to share the podium with her. Congresswoman Haaland represents New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, serving much of Albuquerque— the community where I was born. 

I grew up in Northern New Mexico — and my colleagues Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall point out that I’m the only US Senator currently serving born in New Mexico. So, I stand before you proud of my New Mexico roots and deeply honored to serve Minnesota in the United States Senate.

Representative Haaland is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress—alongside Sharice Davids of Kansas—and her election represents the progress we need, so that Congress looks like all the people of this great country, including Native people and women. 

My favorite part of the State of the Union address last week was when the President noted the new jobs he and his administration created for women in the last year, and the women in Congress, wearing white, stood up in triumph. I believe he said, “You weren’t supposed to do that!” But this is exactly what we are supposed to do.

Congresswoman Haaland was one of those women, and yesterday, she delivered the response to the State of Indian Nations address where she spoke of what her election means for Native representation in Congress, the generations of failed federal policies, and the resilience of tribal communities.

After I finish, you will have a chance to hear from a remarkable leader, and very close friend of mine, Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. 

Lt. Governor Flanagan, the highest ranking native woman elected to executive office in the United States, was my guest at the State of the Union.

Peggy is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and she serves Minnesota with strength and an unshakable determination to bridge the differences that divide us. And the only way to do this is by making sure Native people in Minnesota, and across the country, have a seat at the table of power.

I would like to talk briefly about two issues affecting America’s tribal nations and urban Indian communities. 

The first is the threat looming this week of another federal government shutdown. These shutdowns – potentially the 4th since Trump became President—are unnecessary, wasteful, and deeply harmful to Americans. And Native communities are amongst the hardest hit.

In Minnesota, Bois Forte tribal police officers remained on duty, but went unpaid. And others, like the Red Lake Nation, were forced to make tough budget decisions when determining how to continue critical programs and pay employees. 

Let me be clear: the federal government abdicates its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to fill in the gaps of health care, childcare, and nutrition assistance. 

I saw firsthand the impacts of the shutdown when I visited the Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis. It’s unconscionable when families struggle to feed their children because we can’t get our work done in Washington, DC.

It’s important to remember also that the consequences of a shutdown in Indian Country last long after the government reopens. For example, it leaves a sense of uncertainty that makes it even harder to recruit people to work in the Indian Health Service.

With these challenges in mind, and out of deep respect for the legal relationship between sovereign tribes and the federal government, I helped introduce a bill, led by New Mexico Senator and Vice Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee Tom Udall, to provide advance appropriations for critical programming in Indian Country. This bill would authorize funding one year in advance of the fiscal year for programs within the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We need to do this, so tribal nations have budget certainty for health care, education, law enforcement, and other essential functions.

My seat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is a position I take very seriously, and I’m honored to take up the work of other progressive Minnesota Senators like Al Franken and Paul Wellstone. I feel a strong responsibility to use this position to lift up the voices of Minnesota’s 11 Dakota and Ojibwe nations, its vibrant urban indigenous population, and all the sovereign tribal nations in America. 

I’m guided by the legal and moral principles of self-determination and self-governance for tribal nations, and my lifelong experience that those who do the work know best what will work. Tribal governments know best how the federal government should fulfill its obligations in Indian Country.

This leads me to the second issue I would like to talk about with you before I close: the scourge of violent crime in Indian Country and against Native communities.

An alarming number of Native women and men endure violence in their lifetimes, and

we know that these crimes are often committed by non-Native people in Indian Country. Yet tribes are unable to take action against these offenders, and the federal government too often fails to investigate and prosecute these crimes. We can’t even get decent data about what is happening, let alone address this denial of justice for native women and men.

We took an important step by introducing the Justice for Native Survivors of Sexual Violence Act, my bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has also been a strong leader on this issue. Our bill would restore to tribes the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, stalking and sex trafficking, committed by non-Indian offenders on tribal land. 

I’m going to fight to get this bipartisan bill passed and signed into law. I plan to do that by working to include my bill into the Violence Against Women Act when Congress works to reauthorize the Act. 

There is a lot of work to do here, and state groups are showing tremendous leadership.

In my state, Native organizations in the Twin Cities like the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition are partnering with local law enforcement, and policy makers to raise up these issues. On Valentines Day, advocacy groups will hold an annual march in remembrance of missing and murdered indigenous women. Grassroots action like this is so important to raise awareness and demand justice for these women.

Leaders in the Minnesota State Legislature, along with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, are working to create a Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, with dedicated funding to create a database of missing persons to take action to end this tragic and invisible crisis.

Cases of missing and murdered indigenous women aren’t just missing from the news cycle— a recent study by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that of nearly six thousand cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls reported in 2016, only 116 of those cases were logged into a Department of Justice database. And some of those cases that study discovered weren’t even in law enforcement records.

I want to acknowledge the leadership of my former colleague Senator Heitkamp, and current colleagues Lisa Murkowski and Catherine Cortez Masto, who have pushed forward Savanna’s Act, giving attention to a silent crisis by improving the federal government’s response, increasing coordination with law enforcement, and improving data collection. I can tell you I will carry on this fight. 

Today I’ve focused in on two issues, but there are many ways that we can work together in the coming years.

President Keel mentioned a variety of challenges facing Native communities yesterday in his address, among those, he mentioned the Farm Bill. I’d like to recognize the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for their work in creating the Seeds of Native Health and their work that supported the Native Farm Bill Coalition. Shakopee is rightfully receiving an award for helping to secure so many wins for tribal nations in the Farm Bill.

I also want to thank President Keel for mentioning federal contract employees who serve Indian Country. These workers have not, and will not, receive back pay unless Congress acts. I’ve been leading a bipartisan fight to secure back pay for federal contract workers in the Senate. And we need to get this done. It’s an issue of economic fairness that both sides of the aisle should support and get signed into law.

We have a lot of work to do, and I’m here today to commit that I will work shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight for justice.

Thank you again. I’m honored to be with you this morning, and I’m proud to serve with you, and grateful for your leadership. I look forward to working with you in the Senate. 

###