February 3rd, 2020 Last Updated on: February 3rd, 2020
Lizzie Chimiugak, Alaskan Native, who is 90 years old and still going strong, was the very first person in the United States to be counted for the census, which is taken every 10 years.
Alaska is always the first state to be counted and Chimiugak’s small town of Toksook Bay, located on the edge of the Bering Sea, was the bureau’s first stop this year.
According to a BBC article, “census workers always make an early start in Alaska in January, when the ground is frozen enough to traverse. If they were to wait a few more months, the ground would turn to a marsh and become almost impossible for them to cross.”
Chimiugak interviewed with the director of the census bureau with a family member serving as interpreter since she mainly speaks the Yup'ik language.
Once the count was finished, the party started…
There are 327 million of us in the US. The first to be counted in the 2020 Census will be good old Lizzie Chimiugak of Toksook Bay, Alaska. https://t.co/3ekpSdL1kr
— Bennett H. Beach (@benhbeach) November 27, 2019
A festive ceremony took place in Toksook Bay, which included “local Alaska Native dancers and traditional food, which include(d) seal, walrus, musk ox and moose” (Indian Country Today). Chimiugak remains a part of the Native dance group in the town and celebrated along with the crowd in her wheelchair.
Chimiugak has much love for her community and wants to help continue on with the story and culture of her tribe through communication, art, and dance.
In the census interview she stated:
‘We are Yup'ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong.'
Being the first means a lot to the Yup'ik people in Toksook Bay and Chimiugak takes the responsibility very seriously and with great pride.
Watch this video to see the town in action:
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