It Is Vital for Indian Country to be Counted in the 2020 Census

PWNA reached out to Maria Boyd, tribal partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, to share the importance of counting American Indians in the 2020 U.S. Census.

In 2020, the U.S. Census will define who we are as a nation and it is vital that the census also have an accurate portrayal of our tribal nations. If tribes aren’t accurately counted, communities could miss out on thousands of dollars per person in federal funding. This funding is crucial all year – as well as during events such as the ongoing pandemic.

Information from the Census Bureau on how many people live in a town and where they are located is critical in determining the funds to allocate toward federal emergency response each year. Statistics from the 2020 Census will not only provide the baseline numbers for federal disaster relief funding, but also help plan for preparedness, rescue coordination and even identification of locations for new fire stations.

FEMA also uses Census Bureau resources to identify vulnerable communities, using a vulnerability assessment formula that identifies communities with critical businesses such as hospitals, corporate headquarters and other facilities that render an area more at risk during natural disasters.

The distribution of tribal funds through the CARES Act was also directly linked to Census data – and support was less than needed due to undercounts in the 2010 Census.

Reaching Out to Tribal Members

The U.S Census Bureau is committed to a complete and accurate count of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population this year, no matter where they live. While most Indigenous people do not live on designated tribal lands or reservations, those who do are among the groups historically undercounted in the census.

For the first time this year, everyone can respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail. Most people in rural America will receive invitations to respond to the census in the mail. However, many people living on Indian reservations only have P.O. boxes or no specific address. Others lack internet and broadband connectivity,  posing challenges for them and much of rural America.

Despite these challenges, the Census Bureau has several ways to help ensure that every person living in the U.S. is counted and since most urban households use physical street addresses for mail delivery, we mailed invitations and reminders with instructions on how to respond to the census. As a result, many American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) people who live outside designated tribal lands have already received census invitations with a Census ID linked to their specific address.

Importance of Self Identification

Tribal governments do not provide tribal enrollment numbers to the U.S. Census Bureau, which looks at household data by the race of the householder. So, if you would like your household to be counted as AIAN, be sure to list as the first person an adult who identifies as AIAN and owns or rents the home. The form also allows you to tell the Census Bureau the name or names of the tribe(s) with which you and others in the household are affiliated.

The time to be counted is now and we continue to encourage any household with a Census ID to respond online at, by phone or by mail.

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