The 2020 Census is an opportunity to provide a better future for our communities and future generations. A complete and accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives throughout the U.S. contributes to better planning and decision-making for Indian Country, and helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding is distributed to communities and tribes for programs and grants.
Census data is the basis for the federal funding allocations of more than $675 billion annually, of which $1 billion is dedicated to Indian Country. These funds are used to build tribal housing and make improvements, maintain and construct roads and provide employment and training programs.
American Indian and Alaska Natives have the highest undercount of any ethnic group. Nationally, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations or in Native villages were undercounted by approximately 4.9 percent in the 2010 census, more than double the undercount rate of the next closest population group.
In the 2020 Census, individuals and households will have the opportunity to self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. They also will be able to now write in up to six tribal affiliations on the form. Make sure to write in your enrolled or principal tribe(s) if applicable. You can look it up on the tribal website or ask your tribe about their preference in how their name is written.
An individual’s response is based upon self-identification. No proof is required. No one will ask you to show a tribal enrollment card or a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.
Many Native people can claim descent from several tribes. Their parents or grandparents may have belonged to different tribes. However, most tribes currently do not permit “dual enrollment,” or membership in more than one tribe. The tribe in which the person is enrolled should be the first tribe listed. Filling out these questions on the census form will help ensure that the 2020 Census is accurate and reflects the true diversity in Indian Country.
It is important that American Indian and Alaska Native households be counted in the 2020 Census. This depends on the race of “Person 1” or the first person listed on the census form. If that person says they’re American Indian or Alaska Native, then the household will be counted as one with an American Indian or Alaska Native “householder.”
The U.S. Census Bureau uses the information that people provide on the Census form to tabulate statistics on how many people are associated with a tribe or a group of tribes sharing a similar language or other characteristics. This data can help to provide an idea of the number of persons associated with a tribe living on the tribe’s lands or reservation, in a particular city or in another off–reservation area.
Even on a reservation there may be a significant number of people who are not enrolled in the tribe with jurisdiction over that reservation. These counts will show up in the U.S. Census Bureau’s numbers on a reservation when tabulated by tribe. Tribal leaders, planners, grant writers and others can use this information to supplement enrollment data and other data sources.
Additionally, census data are essential to fair resource distribution and political representation. Federal funding for Indian housing programs, transportation, roads and other services are often distributed on the basis of census data. This data are also used to allocate Congressional seats, electoral votes and is the basis for political redistricting. An accurate count is necessary to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native voters have an equal voice in the political process of non-tribal elections.