rosebud sioux tribe to conduct tribal census
January 2, 2018
By Vi Waln
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will conduct the Rosebud Needs Assessment Survey by interviewing tribal household members living on the Rosebud Reservation during January and February 2018.
The purpose of this survey is to accurately and professionally assist residents to complete a census questionnaire to reflect the correct number of tribal citizens living within the original exterior boundaries of the Rosebud Reservation. The survey will be done by tribal census workers using electronic tablets specifically programmed to gather information.
Currently, US Census data is a major source in determining how many tribal citizens live on any given Indian Reservation in the country. However, tribal officials have long believed that US Census data does not accurately reflect the total number of tribal citizens now living on the Rosebud Reservation.
When people think of the census, they automatically associate the federal agency with the decennial, or 10-year, population count done in the United States. However, various surveys are done every month by the US Census Bureau. Employees working for the US Census Bureau are required to take an oath to protect the confidentiality, including personally identifiable information (PII), of the people they interview. The oath doesn’t expire. US Census workers can be prosecuted for the unauthorized sharing of personal information.
Many people also don’t understand what the information collected by the US Census Bureau is used for. For instance, there is a widespread myth about American Indian Tribes receiving funding based on the total number of tribal citizens whom are enrolled. In reality, the US Census Bureau counts people where they live, not by their tribal affiliation. The US Census data is used to appropriate funding levels for states, as well as tribes.
Tribal citizens have historically been leery of sharing information with US Census workers. However, when you withhold information from the interviewer, it hurts all of us. That is, many tribal officials believe the population data for our reservation is wrong. They have always suspected that households on the reservation are undercounted.
One scenario of a potential US Census undercount might involve public housing. For example, the Sicangu Wicoti Awayankape (SWA) has many HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) homes in each of our communities on the Rosebud Reservation. When a tenant signs a lease, they agree to notify the SWA Occupancy Department when household members move out or when a new member(s) move in to the home.
Yet, there are SWA homes where more people are actually living in the house than are listed on the lease. Tenants know they can get in trouble for this, but they also won’t turn relatives away when they need a place to stay.
US Census workers will sometimes tell you it’s against the law for them to share how many people are living in the home with anyone, including SWA. If a Census employee were to share information with SWA or the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS), or any other agency, they could be prosecuted due to the oath they took when they were hired. Yet, people are still reluctant to share information with US Census employees. Consequently, your reluctance to provide accurate information to tribal and federal census interviewers hurts all of us.
There are 2 ongoing surveys in our area being conducted by the US Census Bureau. First, the Current Population Survey is a 16-month survey used to determine the unemployment rate. Households are interviewed every month for 4-months, then given a break for 8-months and interviewed again over another 4-month period. Information gathered from the CPS interview is used to determine the country’s unemployment rate, which is released as a percentage by the US Department of Labor on the first Friday of every month.
Second, the American Community Survey (ACS) is an on-going survey patterned after the decennial. The ACS is conducted to update households interviewed during the 2010 Decennial in preparation for the 2020 Census count. The respondent will receive a survey in the mail with the option to complete it online. If the respondent fails to complete the survey, a US Census Field Representative will visit their home to do the interview. Since many homes in our area generally don’t have mail delivered directly to their homes, the US Census employee must do most interviews in person.
Both the ACS and CPS surveys are done every month on the Rosebud Reservation. US Census employees are generally allowed 10-21 days to interview all the people on their list. If you have questions about why your PII is being collected, please ask the worker and they will explain what the information is going to be used for. All census surveys are important.
It might be confusing to readers to include both the US Census surveys, as well as the tribal count being conducted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe over the next couple of months, in the same story. In any case, an updated population count, whether done by federal or tribal census workers, is crucial to funding levels.
We all value our privacy, but please know that the information you provide to both the federal and tribal census workers will be used to lobby for more money to improve services to all of our tribal citizens. Please remember the tribal/federal census employee is only doing their job and they appreciate your cooperation.
The upcoming Rosebud Sioux Tribe census count of all tribal citizens living in the 20 communities is extremely important. Please cooperate with the census workers when they visit your home as funding levels depend on updated and accurate information regarding our tribal population.