Census is a foundation for tribal budgets

Patty Talahongva

On the Indian Country Today newscast for Thursday, September 3, 2020 is guest Dr. Cheryl Ann Kary. She is the executive director of the Sacred Pipe Resource Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, and is working to get Native Americans in North Dakota to fill out the 2020 census, followed by Indian Country Today reporter Meghan Sullivan

Patty Talahongva

Indian Country Today

The Census Bureau announced it was ending its national count early by one month. At that time, four out of every 10 households in the U S had responded by returning their forms. But what's the status for Indian Country?

Also on the newscast Indian Country Today's reporter and Stanford Rebele Fellow Meghan Sullivan talks about a job bank in Alaska. Finding a job anytime can be a long search but trying to find a job during the pandemic makes things a little harder.

Here are a few of their comments by Dr. Cheryl Kary:

"Our philosophy has always been one around community engagement and civic engagement. So at the Sacred Pipe Resource Center, We work primarily with the off reservation urban population. So when we've done native vote things, in the past it has always focused on community and civic engagement. And the Census just seemed a natural part of that."

"We really believe that the Census and the Native vote are two sides of the same coin. It's the way that we raise our voice. It's the way that we raise our hand. It's the way that we advocate for ourselves. So it was sort of a natural extension."

"I think it’s the same point with the Native vote, in that if we don't vote, our voices are left out of our own democracy. And it's the same way if we're not counted a lot of times we're left out of the budgets."

"Quite honestly, the census is the foundation for all of our tribal budgets, which we know are traditionally underfunded to begin with. So when you have an underfunded program, as well as an undercount (in the census), you're exponentially increasing the in funding and then ultimately the disparities in our community. And, you know, we're in this global pandemic right now, and certainly we're seeing the disparities in Indian Country with situations like wifi access. Internet access, healthcare, and water issues are so hard when it comes to Indian Country."

"It all goes back to being able to advocate for ourselves. I know some of the tribes have even talked about doing their own tribal census and being able to partner with the Census Bureau in making sure that everybody's counted in our tribes."

"I think that's an important part of that. Self-advocacy because we do have many, many challenges on the reservations in counting, getting an accurate and a full count. A lot of it is creating networking as we have a lot of challenges with remote, hard to reach areas. We also have challenges with people who just really don't trust the government. Then there’s the digital divide, people who are afraid of using technology. A lot of those seen challenges translate into the urban areas.

As a minority person, living in a majority white, non native community, we have a lot of isolation. It's very difficult to get out into the communities and to be able to let people know what's going on with the census and how important it is to participate and that it's safe to participate in the census."

"I think it's been a challenge for the tribes this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic (with respect to tribal economies) and trying to overlay the census on top of that and knowing that we are hard to count populations, I think has been a real challenge for tribes in North Dakota who are aware of how important the census is."

"So things like providing meals or providing food packages and combining the census with those types of events and that's what they have to do because tribes really just don't have the resources and the capacity to do two completely different operations right now."

"We're getting down to the critical point where you can help by just contacting every single one of your relatives and your friends and your networks and saying, “Hey, have you done the census because this is important to us”."

"This 10 or 15 minutes it's going to take you to complete the census will impact us for the next 10 years. And that's really important. So make sure that all of your cousins and your grandmas and grandpas and your aunties and uncles, and all of your friends and your community, your members of your softball team members of your quilting group, whatever it is, let them know, talk about it and tell them how important it is to complete the census."

"We do know that we are considered a hard to count population, and there's even harder to count populations. That's the people who are couch surfers. The people that are dealing with addictions, make sure those people are counted too. That's a big part of the population that we often miss and it's so important to include them."

Meghan Sullivan:

“It's an online website where Alaska Native job applicants can upload their resumes, make a profile that shows their different job qualifications, their work experience, their education, and then employers can log onto this website and search through the different applicants based on kind of the experience they're looking for and the qualifications they're looking for.”

“So it was originally started by Ciri, which is the Cook Inlet Region, Anchorage to Alaska Native corporation for the south central area and it was started back in 2016. It's had a lot of success since then and they really wanted to bring it to the next level and pair up with some more Native hiring resources. Which is when the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, which is a nonprofit in the south central region as well, came in and they decided to acquire this website. It's now being run by the Alaska people, which is the organization within the Cook Inlet Tribal Council that focuses on hiring and employment.”

“There are many different types of jobs. This can range from anything, from something like construction to something more about office management to also more cultural jobs that might require a certain Alaska Native language to be used. So there's any job welcome. There are many jobs on the website.”

“The Cook Inlet Tribal Council focuses on Alaska Native communities in the south central region, so this kind of includes the Athabascans in the south central, Inupiat, Yupik, any community within the South central region. However, the actual job bank itself is open to Alaska Native statewide. So it's really all communities that are welcome to use this great resource.”

“The rate of success that this website has seen has climbed since 2016.”

“That's kind of part of the reason that they decided to bring in more resources from the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, to kind of connect it to the larger community within the state.”

“It's very timely that the Cook Inlet Tribal Council acquired this just because as we've been seeing across the nation, employment rates have declined. Within Alaska, we have kind of had some special circumstances because we have an influx of seasonal workers, whether this relates to fishing or tourism and obviously we had to restrict tourists coming into Alaska this year. So the tourism industry, which is a huge part of our economy, really took a big hit and left a lot of people out of work who normally would be working during this time.”

“This website being acquired by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council is really a great development for this time.”

“So I think people who've used this resource before won't see too much of a difference initially”

“The employment center of Cook Inlet Tribal Council is trying to do, kind of more of a long term strategy to connect this already great resource with more of their resources, make it more well known throughout the state.”

“So I don't think there's going to be any big changes immediately. I think it'll be more going forward. This might just be more kind of a prominent resource that people can use.”

“I'm personally writing a story about Indigenous representation and Avatar the Last Airbender, which is kind of a fun story to do.”

Also in the newscast, Editor Mark Trahant has the latest positive COVID-19 test numbers in Indian Country.

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. Based in Phoenix, Arizona. Talahongva enjoys hiking, reading and traveling to new places. 

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