North Dakota tribal nations have been dramatically undercounted in past censuses. But this is a nationwide issue, and one that is getting worse with time.
This week, KX News had the opportunity to sit down with Nicole Donaghy. She’s a field organizer for non-profit, North Dakota Native Vote, and now, for the 2020 Census.
She says just as the census affects funding from the federal government to the states, it also affects funding for tribal nations. The lower the population count, the lower the funding.
These funds are particularly important for healthcare, which she says North Dakota tribes are in desperate need of. It also affects education and infrastructure.
Donaghy also says this is the first high-tech census, so people can report online. However, this is not super helpful on the reservations, because internet coverage is sparse.
Just like the rest of the state, she’s also concerned about the number of census workers that will make it to the reservations. In response, North Dakota Native Vote has hired field a few canvassers to work as educators on tribal lands. This is to make sure as many people participate as possible come April.
“For any Native person, I think it’s hard to answer a call to the government when things have been put in a place of distrust for our people. And so I think it’s hard for people to answer that call. And there’s also a question of security, and people are hesitant of sharing information about their households, especially when there are people families per house,” Donaghy shared.
She says, regardless, when it comes down to it, the census is a benefit for everyone, especially for getting adequate healthcare funding on North Dakota tribal lands.