The importance of the 2020 Census for Alaska Native people and our Tribes

February 24, 2020
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The 2020 Census is underway and every Alaskan counts. It is especially important for Alaska Native people to be accurately counted for the benefit of ourselves, our families, our communities and our Tribes.

ANTHC encourages every Alaskan to participate in the 2020 Census. Hospitals, clinics and other health programs across the state rely on accurate data from the census to receive adequate financial assistance to provide care to uninsured, low-income children (Denali KidCare/CHIP), pregnant women, and seniors who meet income requirements, Alaskans age 65 or over, and those with certain disabilities.

In today’s data driven world, the once every 10 years Census is the source of population data that is the basis for distributing more than $800 billion in federal funds annually to states, boroughs, and communities.

Many programs that benefit Alaska Native communities are funded based on census-driven data, including:

  • Alaska Tribal Health System facilities funded by the Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • Head Start Program
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Housing assistance
  • Alcohol and drug abuse counseling
  • Employment and training programs

Make sure Alaska Native people are counted!

It is critical that the 2020 Census captures an accurate picture of how many Alaska Native people there are in our state, as it lays the groundwork for a decade of policymaking, from 2020 to 2030.

As the country’s largest and least densely populated state, Alaska has one of the hardest populations to count. But an accurate count is vital; an undercount of Alaskans means our state fails to receive its full population share of federal resources for programs and issues important to Alaska Native people. If there are large gaps in data on our population, it is difficult to make progress when we can’t substantiate needs for improving infrastructure like clinics, housing, schools, law enforcement, and hospitals.

Alaska Native people have been undercounted for decades. 65.6% of Alaska Native and American Indian people live in areas classified as hard to count, so the U.S. Census Bureau is taking measures to ensure there are opportunities for everyone to participate in the 2020 Census, such as starting the official census count process in rural Alaska.

How to be counted as an Alaska Native person in the census

Local census takers, or enumerators, started counting in rural Alaska communities in January 2020 and will continue through March.

Residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks and other large Alaska cities will respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or mail in mid-March. Participation in the census is required by law.

Make sure to be counted as an Alaska Native or American Indian person on the 2020 Census form by checking the box for “American Indian or Alaska Native.” Checking the box to indicate that you are American Indian or Alaska Native is a matter of self-identification. No proof is required. No one will ask you to show a Tribal enrollment card or a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB). Make sure to write in your enrolled Tribe(s) if applicable.

The ANCSA Regional Association has developed a tool for Alaska Native people to determine how to accurately fill out the line for your federally recognized Tribe. Filling this line out correctly means that there are additional resources and federal funding benefits for our Tribal organizations.

The Census is looking specifically for the name of your Tribe as it is registered with the federal government – for example, the Native Village of Kobuk or the Klawock Cooperative Association.

If you are confused about what to put down, the ARA tool can help you look it up – you can search your village, Tribe, corporation, or region, and it will show you the options available:

Additional notes about completing the census form

The Census allows you to list up to six Tribes that you are affiliated with. As an example, if your mom is from Kivalina, your dad is from Ketchikan, and you live in Shishmaref, you can list Native Village of Kivalina, Ketchikan Indian Corporation, and the Native Village of Shishmaref on the Census.

Remember – when it comes to answering the race question, the Census is not interested in verifying or changing your status as a Tribal citizen. Only your Tribe(s) can do that. The Census only uses the information you list to generate statistics and allocate resources.

Anyone filling out a census form can also check off more than one box for the question where they can identify their race. This option to check off multiple races means that an individual can identify as American Indian or Alaska Native and also can identify as a member of another race, such as white, black or Asian.

Every individual has the right to determine how they want to be counted.

Census answers are private and confidential. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share the answers of an individual or a household with any person or agencies such as the IRS, law enforcement entities, or Tribal housing authorities.

In remote rural areas, Census workers will visit your home to complete the form in person and can answer any further questions. Census workers will also conduct door-to-door follow up visits to households that do not return the Census form.

Resources for more information

Tool developed by the ANCSA Regional Association to list your “federally recognized tribe”:

2020 Census Toolkit from the National Congress of American Indians:

More information is available from Alaska Counts throughout the 2020 Census. Alaska Counts is a nonpartisan education initiative to inform public, private, nonprofit and Alaska Native entities representing the interests of people around the state about the 2020 Census. They also have language resources and support for other language needs at

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