Census Bureau Works Toward A More Accurate Count In Indian Country

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Originally published on November 18, 2019 1:25 pm

The 2020 census count is coming, and it will determine where funding goes for things like schools, emergency services and health care. For the last several census counts, though, American Indians and Alaska Natives were the most undercounted ethnic group, limiting their access to funds.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 80 percent of reservation lands are in the country’s hardest to count areas. A lot of those rural reservations are in the Mountain West.

The Census Bureau wants to do better in 2020 and, since the last count a decade ago, has created tribal liaisons and started to recruit more tribal members to help with the count. 

Michael Gray is president and creative director for G&G advertising, which is working the federal agency on outreach for tribal groups. He said communication is important because they found many tribal members don’t understand how important the census is, who should be counted, “and then again, building the trust. There’s still a lot of mistrust and distrust from this audience to the federal government.”

Cathy Lacy, the Census Bureau’s regional director in Denver, said they’ve already recruited about a million people overall to help with the census, but “that’s not nearly enough.”

“We’ll be hiring upwards of a half a million people to get this large operation completed,” she said. “We’re looking for those who don’t know they want to work for the Census Bureau to be part of a mission, part of history that’s only conducted once every 10 years.”

The Bureau is allowing census participants to finish their surveys in new ways this year, including online and over the phone. For more information, go to census.gov.

Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.


Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.