Native American tribes and accurate census counts

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BARAGA, Mich. (WJMN) – 2020 is a census year, which means many Native American tribes are working to get an accurate count to receive federal funding.

There are 12 federally recognized Native American tribes in Michigan, with a handful of them located in the Upper Peninsula. One of those tribes is the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). They have about 3,600 tribal members total throughout the nation.

The data from the census is used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities over the next ten years. This means Native American communities, like the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, depend on an accurate census count to supply all their resources. This is especially for tribal police departments and health centers.

Jennifer Misegan, the KBIC’s Tribal Census Liaison/Enrollment Director, said filling out the census is important but also being a census worker as a tribal member could be helpful.

“The census is hiring, and we would love to see more tribal members be hired by the Census Bureau. And it’s really just an online application that you fill out,” said Misegan. “The more tribal members that we have going to other tribal members homes the more comfortable that they are filling out the census in the end.”

United States Census Bureau 2020 ad campaign featuring Keweenaw Bay Indian Community members.

Misegan said that in the last U.S. Census in 2010, 1 in every 7 tribal members on reservations were not counted. She also said it’s important that if you’re a tribal member, to put your tribe’s name on the census survey when filling it out.

“It’s just another way for us to exercise our sovereignty. We need that money to take care of our members. It really is, if you think about it, it really shows how our ancestors fought to keep us here and we’re still here. So we need to proudly answer the census and make sure that we’re planning for the next seven generations,” said Misegan.

Between March 12 and March 20 U.S. tribal members should begin receiving a Census Bureau packet in the mail. Once filled out, they can be sent back via the postal service or filled out online.

For more information on the census, you can visit the official U.S. Census Bureau website.

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