How 2020 Census Is Overcoming Distrust and Inaccuracies In Indian Country

Posted By Paul G February 6th, 2020 Last Updated on: February 13th, 2020

“I want to tell every American Indian and Alaska Native to be counted as an act of rebellion because this census is designed not to count you.”
—Natalie Landreth

There is tension amongst some Native individuals toward the United States government and it has been building up over time like a slow fuse ready to explode. This tension stems from the historical underrepresentation the government and census bureau have given Native communities by disproportionately undercounting them.

According to James Tucker, the vice-chair of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, in 2010 Alaskan Natives were undercounted by an estimate of 8 percent, while American Indians living on reservations were undercounted at a 4.9 percent. This may not seem like much, but these groups are the most undercounted people and these lost percentages have a huge and lasting negative impact.

Why does this matter and what does this affect?

According to the United States Census Bureau, ‘The census tells us who we are and where we are going as a nation, and helps our communities determine where to build everything from schools to supermarkets, and from homes to hospitals. It helps the government decide how to distribute funds and assistance to states and localities. It is also used to draw the lines of legislative districts and reapportion the seats each State holds in Congress.’

By undercounting Native communities, the individuals residing in them will not get access to as much federal funding for programs as others with higher numbers would, they will have less political representation within their home state, and there would need to be budget and program cuts in much-needed areas.

What about all of the missing and murdered women and girls in Native communities? This is an ever-growing issue that is lacking to be solved by the federal government, until recent promised efforts by President Trump. The fact that they will not be counted in the census does the Native communities even more injustice.

Each and every individual needs to be counted and the process needs to be fair.

What is being done to increase the accuracy of the count?

Advocate senior attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, Natalie Landreth and her partner, pro bono counsel James Tucker, are doing what they can this year to make sure the Native census is as accurate as possible.

One major undertaking is to obtain census information in all Native dialects as well as have Native language speakers do the counting; this will ensure that each individual has the opportunity to gain a clear and accurate understanding of the census documents and why they are important.

Simply acknowledging the barriers and beginning to work on each one is a step in the right direction.

Tucker noted, “With Indian Country, I don't think there's any other population that has so many different, hard-to-count characteristics layered on top of one another.” He listed hurdles such as geographic isolation and disconnection, cultural differences, and language barriers. “We have one of the youngest populations. We have housing instability, high poverty, high unemployment, lack of transportation, and lack of access to Wi-Fi, which is another huge thing we're talking about.”

Currently, there are groups of people and coalitions present who are working hard to earn the trust of Native communities, to try to ensure as many people as possible are reached during the census count, and that the right thing is done for the individuals of Alaska; this is their future after all.

Article sponsored by the 2020 Census.

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Patricia Timbrook

I’ve placed flyers and cards at several Community Boards. Grocery stores get a lot of attention.
Hopefully this will help let more people in the community fill out their CENSUS.

Michele Chamberlain Hale

In Maryland Native Americans are still being counted as having no state or country by antique laws that have never changed.
But we have to pay taxes and take abuse that law will not stop unless we are injured over 10 times.
I have a steel lower left leg by abuse that shattered my leg. He knocked me unconscious and kicked my leg to pieces with his steel toe boots.
But the white man who did this only got the best food and medical treatment, including dental during the 3 months he was sentenced for doing this.

Alfredo CANKU OTA Lopez

The cencus is as accurate and genuine as the gov is in recognizing us, if you’re not on the roles you arent real BUT, the gov doesn’t see us any differently than our own people who live on the rezs. You dont live here, speak like us, AND you’re NOT on the roles, so dont even try. You know ” walks like an EAGLE, looks like an eagle, it HAS to be a DUCK ” These are my words.

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