2020 U.S. Census halted, cause for concern for Indigenous nations

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EUREKA, Calif. (KIEM)-The 2020 Census was supposed to wrap up at the end of October – However – a victory for the current administration put a stop to that effective immediately – for Indigenous nations this development is a cause for concern. 

The United States 2020 Census is in its twenty-fourth year and officially began on April 1st.

Madison Flynn is assistant director of the Northern California Indian Development Council Inc.

“We have two weeks left in the census and that’s for people to get counted,” she said.

Flynn says, their outreach is to encourage Indigenous people to do their part to be counted.

“Historically, Native Americans are under counted, you know, ever since the census began,” she said.  

Gathering data from Indigenous communities have posed a challenge.

“Due to rural reservations, the mistrust in the government, it’s important we get counted because that’s where the funding comes from,” Flynn said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also put a wrench in the process, many Tribes shutdown their reservation.

“We had to work through a lot of access issues, we had to make sure that we had really good PPE in place,” said U.S. Bureau Partnership Coordinator, Jessica Imotichey.

Followed by wildfires.

“A lot of the fires were on the Reservation areas and so they were getting evacuated and that impacted the count,” said Flynn.

Census Liaison Rose Silva also works for the Northern California Indian Development Council Inc. 

“Another layer of difficulty, if you will, the changing of the dates with the United States Census Bureau, I’m assuming they were just as frustrated, as far as how they were going to be obtaining accurate data and collecting with the constraints,” said Silva.

Now new constraints, the Supreme Court Tuesday granted a request for the current administration to suspend the census count, as an appeal plays out in a lower court. 

Silva says, the back-and-forth is only hurting communities that need the most representation – Indigenous nations. 

“For us in particular although we had secured funds through several grants, we really had to ramp up our outreach efforts.” 

Flynn says, she’s hopeful the count will be accurate. However, she does have some reservations.

“Were severely under counted still,” she said. “We reviewed the response rates and each reservation is historically under-counted, still.”

The administration pointed out the count had been delayed by COVID-19 if the time spent counting were shortened, that deadline could still be met.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the order, fearing that the shortened timeline would produce inaccurate results.