GOTNV Update: The Importance of the Census
The federal government is currently holding tribal consultations through this coming winter in preparation for the 2020 census.
The census determines the number of elected representatives that represent YOU in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the distribution of $400 billion in annual federal funding ($4 trillion over a 10-year period).
Visit http://bit.ly/2sqHkQX to learn more about tribal consultation and how it may affect you. It’s important to be aware of how Alaska Natives and American Indians will be tracked in census material and why it’s important to take part in the census.
What is the history of Alaska Natives and American Indians in the census?
The census began in the 1790s but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that Alaska Natives and American Indians were included in the count, due to the initiation of Andrew Jackson’s assimilation policies. The assimilation policies were an attempt to force indigenous people into western society, mainly through removing children, and outlawing traditional ceremonies and language.
The 1970 census compared to the 1980 census reflected a 74 percent increase in Alaska Native and American Indian census participants. This was partly due to hiring local people to collect surveys in rural communities, a practice that continues to this day. However, the population of tribal nations is still largely undercounted due to lack of participation.
How does the census affect redistricting and why does it matter?
The U.S. Constitution requires that electoral districts be periodically adjusted or redrawn to account for population shifts.
Redistricting is the process of changing electoral district and constituency boundaries in response to the census. Redistricting will determine who represents you in the Legislature based on where you live.
How does the census affect federal funding to your community?
The census occurs every 10 years and includes only 10 questions, but those 10 questions have an enormous impact on your community.
The census predetermines federal funding that is funneled to your community for social services, health care, infrastructure, education and transportation needs. It also predetermines what assistance the federal government will provide in response to a natural disaster.
Historically, Alaska Natives and American Indians have been undercounted due to language barriers, resistance to federal government intrusion, high mobility rates (moving often), and lack of culturally competent interviewers. A population undercount can drastically affect the amount of government support your community receives.
When is the next census?
The last census occurred in 2010 and the next one is in 2020. The census occurs every 10 years.
Because of past issues with the accuracy of the census, many governments and organizations have established tribal liaison positions to act as representatives for gathering census