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Native American Officials Visit Sacramento In Attempt To Reverse Census Undercount

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With the 2020 Census just right around the corner, it's important to make sure everyone in Indian country is counted. In Sacramento, a group of Native American media representatives met with state officials to discuss how to reverse the undercount in 2020. For the FNX Channel and KVCR News, Isel Cuapio has this report.

Historically, Native Americans remain the most undercounted by the Census Bureau. Fear and distrust of the government are some of the obstacles Indian Country must overcome to ensure a more accurate count come 2020.

Joseph Orozco, from Hoopa Tribal Radio was one of several Native media representatives in attendance.

“What we did today was a working session of Native media, journalists, television people, radio, print. And we met with several people from the foundation and with the representative of the governor...talking about the upcoming  2020 census and how we can be involved.. and how native media can encourage our community to be better involved this time around.”

The gathering was a call to action, and for attendees like Independent producer Daniel Golding, this was exciting,

“When we started off, Assemblyman James Ramos was there and he took the time to meet with us and share a song with us which was very powerful in the sense of, here’s a California Native in this room and treating us like equals and even he said that it was great to see all these native representatives in the room. It was a great start.”

The 2010 Census still missed about 5 percent of Native Americans living on reservations and almost 12 percent of those off the rez. As a result, the native community has lost out on almost 5 percent of its share of hundreds of billions in government allocations. That undercount needs to be reversed, and that’s where Native media comes in,

"Getting educated as to how to best help the education process of having the Native American culture and citizens involved and to educate the citizens on the reservation as to the benefit they would have... becoming involved and to neutralize some of the concerns that they have about exposing too much of their personal information that having a govt agency would not necessarily be to their benefit. I have a sympathy with and personally trying to fight myself now."

That’s Rose Davis, editor in chief of Indian Voices newspaper. She says that mistrust of the government is something she struggles with as well,

 

“Becoming involved and to neutralize some of the concerns that they have about exposing too much of their personal information that having a govt agency would not necessarily be to their benefit. I have a sympathy with and personally trying to fight myself now."

 

Terria Smith, editor of News from Native California echoes that same concern,

“There's no trust right now for the federal government at all..as far a lot of people go. Then the other thing you have to combat is people's apathy. What is the benefit? The BIA already has all our information, as soon as you’re enrolled they have your tribal enrollment number...what is the benefit of doing all of this?”

 

But, Jourdan Bennett Begaye, from Indian Country Today, says that although the sentiments of distrust are there, an undercount will impact policy and allocation of funds,

" I understand the distrust, but it affects a lot of our policies. From the federal programs, but I’m also thinking about the younger kids. The number of populations undercounted are kids ages 0-5. And our native youth are our largest population in Indian country. So when you think about all the head start programs we could have and be funded...that is something the Census could affect right now. So it affects our policies, it affects a lot of the money we get in tribal communities.”

Joe Orozco from Hoopa Radio says, he knows that there is a lot of work that needs to be done between now and 2020, but is hopeful that with continued efforts from Native media, more people will be counted this time around,

" So if we could get that message back to our people, they just may be better involved in the 13 percent that got involved in the 2010 census. So, I'm looking forward to doing what I can make that happen. Our goal is to do this for our children because the next census will come back in 2030, so let's give them some more numbers they can count on, and just keep adding to our story. That's the only thing we have, is our story."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwFew2C5fsU&list=PLEksHKh2k6r-qu39Ot2gXU39DrptIg-iZ&index=2

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