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2020 Census Pushes On For Full Count Of Indigenous Americans

Connar L'Ecuyer
GPA Photo Archive/Flickr/Public domain

Despite the pandemic’s disruption of the 2020 Census, officials are hopeful they can avoid repeating the nearly 5 percent undercount of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in 2010.

Census data drives federal spending, which includes $1 billion a year on services for tribal communities, like housing and infrastructure. 

COVID-19 has disrupted events and outreach, as well as deadlines. Final counts once due by July 31st are now due September 30th.

Alaina Capoeman is a Tribal Partnership Specialist. She said they’re using virtual outreach and cultural programming to engage native audiences.

“We Count Oregon” hosted a really fun online event, that really helped boost some of their numbers.  They had Ryan Redcorn on and he was doing his “1491s” comedy, pretending to be a Census worker.  (The Confederated Tribes of ) Grand Ronde opened the event sharing a song, to kind of give a blessing on the day.”

For Oregon tribes, the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw nation –currently have the highest response rate, at 60 percent. Cow Creek has the lowest with 33 percent.

As for the remaining Oregon tribes (as of July 28, 2020): Burns-Paiute of Harney County has a response rate of 39.7%; The Coquille Tribe has 58%; The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde 49.8%;  The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs 38.4%; Klamath Tribes 34.6%; The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians 50.4%; and the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Reservation 52.9%. 

Census officials say most of Oregon's tribes have already surpassed their 2010 response rates.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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