FLATHEAD NATION — Next year, the 2020 Census takers will be knocking on the doors of households throughout America. Presently the U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up for the every-10-years count of the nations populace including Indian Country. That includes the hiring and training of Census takers — there is a big need for American Indian Census takers on the Indian Nation Reservations, including the seven reservations in Montana.
The population counts are important for many reasons, most importantly the state population count determines the number of Representatives a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Montana had two Representatives until the 1990 Census count determined that Montana’s population count reduced that to one at-large Representative. Montana is presently on the cusp of regaining the seat it lost as a result of the 1990 Census — it all depends on the state count.
Montana’s last two Reps simultaneously in the U.S. House were Republican Ron Marlenee and Democrat Pat Williams. In the ensuing election Pat Williams won the at-large seat.
The other important reason for accurate population counts determines the amount of federal financial aid a state receives.
The Flathead Nation and the other tribal nations in the Big Sky State are currently gearing up for an arduous task ahead.
To that end Tina Begay has been hired as the Census 2020 Tribal Partnership Specialist-Montana. She is responsible for the effort in the state to get a comprehensive census count of the American Indian population on the seven Indian reservations. Begay is currently seeking tribal people to be census takers on their respective reservations.
“Our target is to get the Montana reservation communities members counted in the upcoming 2020 census,” Begay said, adding that there are plenty of positions available for census takers as well as managers for the reservation census takers. She is currently in the process of recruiting tribal census takers for numerous positions that need to be filled. The Census takers in Montana are paid around $13 an hour.
Begay said it is very important to have tribal census takers on their respective reservations because they know the lay of the land and the Indian community. The rural nature of the seven Tribal Nation reservations in the state is best served by Census takers that are tribal because they’re more often than not known by their fellow tribal people. Many of them have post office box addresses instead of rural physical addresses that are served by rural postal delivery. A tribal person familiar with the dispersed tribal population better knows where they reside. There is also a communication factor based on familiarity between Indian people that doesn’t exist in the same sense as in the rest of America. In other words there is an ease of communication, a comfort zone where Indian people respond better to a tribal Census takers questions.
“We know where the people with Post Office box addresses live,” Begay said. “We will go to their physical addresses.”
There are three ways a person can fill out the Census questionnaire. The can do it by phone, on-line and by mail.
“If the people don’t get their questionnaire back by certain date after receiving them, we will go out to their residences and pick them up,” Begay said. “It is also very important that the young children get counted. There were a lot of them not counted in the last Census.”
Begay said time is of the essence when it comes to the hiring process. “People need to apply now,” she said. “January is too late.”
The crunch is related to the public education process and the training of the Census takers.
The Census taker’s TANF will not be affected by the wages they earn.