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Recognizing The Importance Of The Census And Native American Participation

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Recognizing The Importance Of The Census And Native American Participation

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Mr. BACA. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Today I rise in strong support of House Resolution 1086, a resolution that recognizes the importance and significance of the 2010 census and encourages each community within Indian Country to name an elder to be the first member of that community to answer the 2010 census.

I would like to thank the majority leader, Steny Hoyer; Chairman Ed Towns; and Ranking Member Darrell Issa for their support of this resolution that was introduced on February 22, 2010. I also want to recognize all committee staff and my personal staff for their hard work on this. I also would like to take the time to thank my colleagues in the House of Representatives for their bipartisan support, because it is a bipartisan bill that is good for all of us.

This resolution serves to raise the awareness of the importance of the 2010 census count and urges Indian Country to name an elder to be the first person to complete the 2010 census from each tribe. That shows respect and dignity for that elder. An accurate census count is very important because the data gathered will determine the allocations and the distributions of millions of dollars to State, local, and tribal governments.

Census data can help tribal leaders understand what their community needs are. Many tribal communities use census information to attract new businesses and plan for growth in the future. In fact, many tribes and tribal organizations use census data to plan new facilities and programs for their communities and making their quality of life a lot better.

The 2010 census will be used as a future basis for the 1,400 funding programs under the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance; 245 of these programs use census data for distribution of funds through grants, loans, direct payments, and government grant payments. An accurate count is essential to everyone, especially in Indian Country.

In the year 2000 census, 4.3 million people, or 1.5 percent of the total United States population, stated that they were American Indians or Alaska Natives. Census data will help shape the future of our youth and sends a proud message to those individuals who can be identified.

In 2007, the American Community Survey reported that 40 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native population was under the age of 25. And in these tough economic times, Indian Country needs an accurate census count more than ever. That is why I am proud to work with the tribe from my area in California, along with Congressman Jerry Lewis, that has the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, led by my good friend Chairman James Ramos.

Next week, San Manuel Chairman Ramos will name Pauline Murrillo to be the first elder to complete the 2010 census form to be counted in their tribe. This is a short form with 10 questions. This is what it looks like. What San Manuel is doing is creative and innovative. Elders are looked upon as trusted leaders in most Native American communities. They are in the best position to help carry the message of the importance of an accurate 2010 census count. And also to bring pride and respect within each of the tribes.

By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with anyone, including tribal housing authorities, other Federal agencies, or law enforcement entities. However, there is still mistrust in the census in many tribes. The census needs our help, and this resolution drives home the message that we need to encourage tribal elders as partners in this challenge. With only 10 questions in the 2010 census questionnaire, it is one of the shortest questionnaires in history and it takes 10 minutes to complete for the average household.

The majority of households will receive the form by mail starting on March 15. However, special procedures will be used on many Indian reservations and in Alaska Native villages where homes do not have city-style addresses with a number and street name. In these areas, members of the community working with the census will visit homes to help fill out the form and take an accurate count. Distrust in the census will hurt the count especially, so these special procedures are arranged for the very hard-to-count tribal areas. That is why the U.S. Census created a special tool kit to help deliver the message and complete an accurate count in Indian Country. With the help of tribal elders, the 2010 census can be a great success.

I encourage all Members to go back to their districts and work with the tribes in their areas, as I have, to ensure an accurate count for every community. I urge my colleagues to support greater census awareness in Indian Country and vote in favor of H. Res. 1086.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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