ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal officials are considering changes to the 2020 census that would result in Alaska Natives being asked about their tribal affiliation and shareholder status with regional and village corporations.
The proposal was met with concern by many Alaska Native representatives at a Tuesday meeting with officials from the U.S. Census Bureau, KTUU-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2diAxwM). The officials came to Anchorage to hear feedback on questions they plan to ask on the next census.
Nancy Potok, the bureau’s deputy director and chief operating officer, said the bureau is hoping to gather more information from Alaska Native respondents in order to have better data for things such as accessing and allocating funds.
But some people at the meeting were concerned that Alaska Natives would avoid the additional questions and that tribe populations would be undercounted, which could affect government funding.
“You’re talking about millions of dollars that could be lost,” said Carol Gore, president and chief executive of Cook Inlet Housing Authority.
Gore also said it would be difficult for the data collection effort to get accurate information because Alaska Natives identify themselves in complex ways. Some identify with their clan and others by the village where they or their relatives came from, she said.
Other concerns expressed at the meeting included questions about why non-Natives are not asked for detailed information about their ethnic ancestry. One woman, Jana Turvey, said she did not like that the federal government would be collecting data on tribal enrollment from individual citizens.
“This feels paternalistic,” Turvey said. “We don’t need you telling us who our members are.”
Nicholas Jones, the Census Bureau’s director of race and ethic research and outreach, said respondents wouldn’t be required to answer the additional questions.
“We’re not telling you to do this. We’re asking,” Jones said. “It’s about self-identifying.”
Potok said some tribes and federal agencies had asked the Census Bureau to include questions about tribal enrollment before the 2010 census, but there wasn’t enough time to have them developed. Since the bureau began drafting questions and gathering input from the public, Potok said, census officials have been receiving more pushback to the plan from tribal communities.
“Initially there were a lot that wanted it. But now it’s more negative than positive,” she said.
Potok said plans for the 2020 census haven’t yet been finalized and that Congress will ultimately have the final say in what appears on the census.
“We see this as a starting point, not an end point,” Potok said.
Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com