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After Previous Undercount, Census Bureau Focuses Efforts On Native America

The U.S. Census Bureau highlighted its outreach to Native American communities during a virtual briefing July 21, 2020.
The U.S. Census Bureau highlighted its outreach to Native American communities during a virtual briefing July 21, 2020.

Indigenous people were undercounted across the country in the 2010 Census. Ten years later, the United States Census Bureau says it’s increasing its efforts to ensure an accurate count.

Montana’s census response rate is 56 percent, trailing the national average of 62 percent. Looking closer at the numbers, some of the lowest response rates are among reservation residents. At 42 percent, Flathead has the highest response rate, while less than five percent of Northern Cheyenne residents have been counted.

In some cases, such as on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, Census officials say their address lists were not current and not all residents even received a census form. Census workers are now going door to door to seek responses from those who didn’t or couldn’t respond.

Cathy Lacy, the director of the Denver region of the U.S. Census Bureau opened the briefing on July 21 with a reminder of what’s at stake in a national census.

"When we talk about the importance of the census, it comes down to power, knowledge and money. As we're looking at the situation with COVID-19, and the other challenges on tribal nations, those federal dollars coming back to the tribal nations are incredibly crucial. And we are talking billions of federal dollars that are distributed based on our census count," Lacy said.

Officials say the undercount of the 2010 census led to a lack of funding for essential tribal services. Jamie Azure, the Chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, said the U.S. government’s history of harming tribal members caused lower response rates in 2010.

"A lot of it stems back to even historical trauma with distrust with the state government and distrust with the federal governments," Azure said.

This is the latest ad for the US Census Bureau.

It features a socially distanced pow wow with music by Christian Parish, a Crow rapper and fancy dancer better known professionally as Superman.

The 2020 census is here and we need to do our part for our people, for our communities.

Census officials say they’re working toward a more accurate count with communication and data, including, for the first time this year, an online response option at 2020census.gov

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

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