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Indian Country Depends on the Census for Important Funding

Every decade, the most undercounted demographic as defined by the Census Bureau is American Indians. The obstacles compounding undercounting Native people is the diversity of Native peoples themselves as well as geographic isolation of many Native families and tribes.

The 2010 Census undercounted Native peoples by approximately 5% on reservations -and by nearly 12% of Natives living outside of their reservations. Specific cities, like New York City, estimated that the initial undercount of Natives in its 2010 Census was closer to 23%. This significant undercount continually costs Native Americans in federal allocations for funding that would benefit their communities, including healthcare, schools, infrastructure, and even the loss of political representation.

The Census 2020 count began last month and is further complicated by its heavy reliance on a digital questionnaire (online). Numerous reservation communities lack broadband infrastructure and many Native families cannot afford the cost of internet even when infrastructure exists. There are language barriers to overcome among many tribal elders.  And access to the post office is often far away, while physical visits by Census-takers have been suspended until a later date to be announced due to COVID19.

These are a but a few of the obstacles Natives face in completing the Census. But Native people are resilient and strong, and Indian Country needs you now more than ever. Ensure you are counted! The 2020 Census will determine the allocation of congressional seats, redistricting for voting, and may impact the distribution of almost $1 billion in annual federal resources for Indian Country.

How you can help:

  • If you have Internet service, complete the 2020 Census online. Offer to help others in your extended family and community complete the Census online.
  • Offer to help elders with limited language skills to complete their 2020 mail-in Census forms.
  • Offer to deliver and mail 2020 Census forms at the post office for community members who lack transportation.
  • Promote the 2020 Census within your communities.
  • Last but not least, call your member of Congress and advocate for emergency funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS). For many Native reservations and rural communities, the USPS is the only option for submitting their 2020 Census form (in addition to providing vital delivery for goods, medications, and more).

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) posted its 2020 census toolkit to provide guidance for all Natives completing their 2020 Census forms. Check it out here.