Effective policymaking to address the challenges of improving the socioeconomic status and well-being of Native peoples depends on accurate and reliable data. Policymakers at the tribal, federal, and state level depend on data to develop policy that effectively meets the needs of Native people. To that extent, effective data collection in Indian Country is an essential need and is an important mandate for federal agencies. Fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes requires accurate data on tribal needs and resources.

The Census is a critical and powerful information source that will significantly influence American policy for the coming decade. It is the foundation of American democracy in that it determines the allocation of Congressional seats. It is also used extensively to distribute funds to tribal, state, and local governments, and it serves as a foundation for policymaking as well as research and program evaluation in think tanks, universities, and at all levels of government.

In the time leading up to the 2010 Census, NCAI’s Census education campaign, Indian Country Counts, focused on educating Native citizens about the importance of participating in the Census activities.

NCAI’s efforts now focus on analyzing the results of the Census and equipping tribal leaders with the tools to understand and utilize Census data.

The stark profiles of American Indian and Alaska Native communities that are outlined by the Census and other data sources lead tribal leaders and other policymakers to crave more accurate data to guide policymaking.

Background on the Census and Indian Country

Since the first six Censuses (from which Indians were completely excluded) through the 2010 Census, the accuracy of the Census count for Indian Country has been an ongoing challenge. Native people were excluded and/or undercounted for generations, up to and beyond 1962, when the last American Indians were granted the right to vote. In each successive Census since full American Indian and Alaska Native enfranchisement, the count of our population has improved. Improving the accuracy of Census data is essential to redistricting and full political representation that empowers Native people. Census data are also used to distribute hundreds of billions of federal dollars.

Learn more about NCAI’s Policy Research Center


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