Tribal leaders hope count equates to federal dollars

One group eager to see the results of the 2010 Census is tribal leaders in the Southwest, who are counting on the census to help them attract federal dollars and better understand their own tribes, census officials said.

“We’re doing everything we can to get work with tribal members on the reservation,” Amadeo Shije, tribal partnership coordinator for the Denver census office, said.

Shije, a member of the Zia Pueblo of New Mexico, is working with the leaders of 91 tribal nations.

Tribal leadership sees the census as a way to preserve the tribes’ part in history, census spokesman Jared Ewy said.

“It’s a way to preserve cultures, a bridge to your grandchildren,” Ewy said. “They’re tired of hearing stories about them. They’re saying we can tell our own story, and we can do it through numbers.”

The census gives tribal leaders “the opportunity to see what the makeup of the tribal people might be,” Shije said.

“It’s a community service,” said Ewy, who discussed the decennial population count with tribal leaders last week at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio.

Leaders hope to use the census to bring tax dollars back to the community and will use the data to better administer health and jobs programs, Ewy said.

The Ute Mountain Ute tribe chose to have census workers deliver census forms to residences, explain it and leave it, allowing residents to fill it in themselves and mail it, Ewy said.

“We’re doing our best to make sure the people working here are Ute Mountain Ute or at least tribal,” so as to be familiar to the residents, Ewy said.

For the most part, he said, people are familiar with the process.


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