News update: Census is in deep trouble, tribes could lose millions of dollars

Mark Trahant

One estimate says every tribal citizen not counted costs their tribal government at least $3,000 in lost federal dollars


American Indians and Alaska Natives are undercounted during the best of circumstances every time the U.S. conducts its once-a-decade count.

But this year?

The 2020 Census is in trouble. It's been in trouble for a while, said Norm DeWeaver, a consultant who has served on Census advisory boards, and has worked with tribes to improve their count.

DeWeaver said Census troubles have been brewing for several years because Congress hasnt wanted to spend enough money on the process.  Native communities have a number of problems, ranging from the lack of rural addressing to a justified concern about answering questions from the government.

Yet the stakes are huge. One estimate says that every tribal citizen who is not counted costs their tribal government at least $3,000 in lost federal support for services.

Lets put that in perspective. If a 10,000 member tribe is undercounted by 5 percent, thats a loss of $1.5 million a year in federal funds, every year for the next ten years. Many federal programs and block grants use Census numbers to determine spending.

There were supposed to be field tests at Standing Rock and at Colville, but those were called off to save money.

Another reason why the Census is so important is because it determines representation in the Congress and state legislatures.  One Congressional district is about 700,000 people (except in states where there is one member for the entire state). Several states are hoping that population gains will mean an additional seat after the 2020 count.

So how do you fix the Census? The best answer would be more support from the Congress. But another answer is for tribes to do more of the work on their own -- in a way bailing the federal government out.

I am Mark Trahant for Indian Country Today.

Story: The 2020 Census is in 'deep trouble'

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

There is a long story that goes with my statement. I know this isn't the time, or place. My ancestry is Canadian First Nation, not Native American. I am American by birth. I had to learn the difference between Canadian First Nations and American Indian. I don't understand what I read about the to People's. Why aren't the Native Americans resisting the Us Govts plan to force assimilation? The Canadians, indigenous peoples continue to gain and redefine their place in Canadian society. In the US there seems a strong effort to accept a diminishing place as "Blood Quotas" dictate.