Hardly Any Native Tribes Are Responding to the 2020 Census – Here’s What That Means

The 2020 United States Census is upon us. While the average response rate for the country as a whole is currently 60.8%, Native American tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, is under 1%.

A major reason why there is such a stark contrast between response rates is because Native tribes have been especially hard hit by COVID-19. Many were not even able to receive their 2020 Census to fill out.

However, deliveries have started to resume, but overall response rates for tribes like the Navajo Nation are very likely to stay significantly lower than the national average.

2020 census update for Arizona | Cronkite News

The Importance of the Census

The US Census is a questionnaire that can be filled out by mail, phone, or online. When filled out, it ensures that every individual is counted. It will also make sure they are counted at the right time at the correct location.

This year, the first person counted was an Alaskan Native American. This was done to send a message to the rest of Native Americans that the government is looking to ensure those who have been under-represented for so long will finally be counted.

Making sure that everyone, including Native Americans, is counted in the Census is vital for a number of reasons.

One example that has become especially timely is that a state will receive more or less representation in the US House of Representatives, depending on their population. Montana is now facing an issue with not getting another representative for their state, due to the low Census response rate of Native Americans in the state. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana has seen just 7.3% of its residents fill out the Census. At the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, also in Montana, only 3.6% responded.

The loss in political power is not the only issue involving an undercount of Native tribes. The Census population data is also used by a state's redistricting commission to redraw where legislative districts are. The reason this is important is because it will govern how billions of dollars in federal funding is used for a particular state. If there are less Native Americans being represented in the official Census figures, then they will likely receive far less federal funding than they should get.

This perpetuates the endless cycle of disenfranchisement and poverty that Native tribes across America face today. It causes schools to be funded and leads to people who need mental health services not to receive what can help them.

Beyond these, there are hundreds of various federal programs that are affected by the data collected from the Census. Altogether, there is $1.5 trillion of funding that is available annually. When Native Americans are undercounted, they receive a fraction of what they should be getting from these federal programs.

Native Americans have been historically under-represented in the US Census. The latest Census appears to be no different. In fact, the coronavirus appears to have made the under-representation even more pronounced.

Shape Our Future

For far too long, Native tribes have been underfunded and under-represented due to being undercounted. Due to the problem of being undercounted, the amount of resources flowing into Native American communities is far less than is needed. While there are concerted efforts being made by the US Census to get as many Native Americans counted as possible, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the process especially challenging. Nevertheless, there is some progress being made, but unfortunately, it may not be enough.

8 Comments on “Hardly Any Native Tribes Are Responding to the 2020 Census – Here’s What That Means”

  • June Davis


    I am a Native American of Cherokee and Choctaw descent, of which I am very proud.

  • William Gouveia


    Why aren’t we seeing “NATIVE LIVES MATTER’ marches on the news each night? Native peoples throughout north and south America have suffered from genocidal colonization since 1492 and continue to be marginalized. The elevated Covid 19 deaths on and off the res are just the latest example of native victimization. We need to start marching with NATIVE LIVES MATTER banners flying demanding our share of the trillions being sent out by the government. Lean Bear.

  • Samuel D Kiser


    I’m Cherokee native Indian

    • Osio🦅 for Brown Skin Native American we have been labeled as black, we are just now finding out that WE are the truth, and the light of Indian/Indigenous Tribes labeled as that’s being labeled as black, and separated from our tribes, and family, I have contacted the Geaneology Bank on Monday, and gave (him) my biological grandmothers information and he told me a lot about my grandmother’s parents, again I’m in the middle of doing research, and sad to say if anyone feel that a brown skin person is not Indian are a racist!!! I’m a brown Skin Native American born 100% Indian/Native American, so not knowing for decades, and didn’t know about research has lowered the Native American Indian Tribe, but now we are waking up to realize that the government has hidden us long enough but not anymore, and for all the fake Indians their coming for yah who ever you are that’s claiming to be Indian/Indigenous like mainly light skin white looking Indians, who went through blood quantum, brought a $5 Indian card, or brought yourself into without proper or correct proof!! who were not born Indians!!!!

  • Rubicon



  • John A. Goode


    That’s it the United States Government is no Longer the powerful in the World……We need to form Our own ..such as Our own Currency.
    Our own state of emergency…system….Every thing Native American….for Indigenous peoples. Why not wean off let go the hands that we once held. Let’s give it a try.

    • Samuel D Kiser



    • Ronald Sapp


      Do this not so bright thing will lose a lot of what they are achieving now.

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