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August 17, 2021
Native Communities Deserve To Be Counted! Census Data and Community Livelihood
A Statement from Brenda Victoria Castillo, President & CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)
For far too long the U.S. census has undercounted Native communities through its flawed and neglectful data collection practices. Census data is invaluable; it validates the needs of a community and directly influences the livelihoods of millions. The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) firmly believes that Native communities deserve to be accurately accounted for and is pleased with recent 2020 Census data demonstrating large population gains for Native communities across the country.
In the last decade, the Native population has increased from 5.2 million in 2010 to 9.7 million in 2020. This 86.5 percent increase in our Native communities is both an indicator of growth in our diverse communities and a testament to the growing number of people who are reclaiming their Indigeneity. This is a monumental triumph considering the historic invisibility of Indigenous and Native peoples in previous counts. Prior to 1860, Native peoples in the United States were not counted in the census while Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders waited another 100 years to be included in census designations.
Similarly, the first attempts to calculate the size of the Latinx population began only in 1930, with consistent and cohesive data tracking for our demographic not beginning until 1980. Despite estimations for Latinos dating back almost a century, terms used to count Latinos lacked consistency and effective means of accurately capturing diversity within the community. Since 1930, the census has changed its Latinx community questions five times and this instability makes it nearly impossible to analyze any long-term data regarding Latinx.
Improving the quality of life for our Native communities is dependent on accurate census data and research methods. Considering the 2020 Census was increasingly reliant on internet access, engagement with trusted community members, tribal consultations, and increased in-person outreach efforts were all effective adjustments in improving participation. Additional changes in the race and ethnicity question designs, data processing, and coding were also appreciated improvements instrumental in capturing a more accurate portrayal of Native peoples within the U.S.
NHMC stands with our Native brothers and sisters in their efforts to ensure continued visibility, fair and accurate representation, and sovereignty. With upcoming Congressional redistricting efforts, it is imperative that the count accurately represents Native communities, given that this census data will determine representation and the drawing of local, state, and federal district maps for the next decade. Visibility and voting power can help address existing disparities, provide funding for vital services, and guarantee these communities have the resources and digital access needed during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Moving forward, NHMC will continue to be a strong ally and advocate alongside the Native communities’ fight for a more equitable and just tomorrow.
Yours in the Movement,
Brenda Victoria Castillo
President & CEO
National Hispanic Media Coalition