The 2020 Census is incredibly important for Native people

A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of First Alaskans Magazine.

Why is the 2020 census important? The data gathered will provide vital information to leaders in your school, your Tribal and local village governments, and businesses for use in community planning—to provide programs and services for you and your family.

Data collected in the census informs how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states, Tribes and communities each year.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that individuals living in the United States of America be counted every 10 years. Since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has been responsible for the count of the nation.

Do you know where the first count in the nation will start? In Alaska! The 2020 census kicks off in Toksook Bay, Alaska, where the first person will be counted on Jan. 21, 2020.

In Alaska villages, paper questionnaires will be used by the census takers. For those individuals residing in urban areas of Alaska and in most of the Lower 48 states, the Census Bureau will have the questionnaire available online for them to complete, or a paper survey will be delivered to their doors. Whether paper, online or by phone, the questionnaire will have 10 questions.

One of the 10 questions will ask about your race. An option for indicating your race will be American Indian or Alaska Native (AN/AI). The second step after choosing AN/AI is to print the name of your enrolled or principal Tribe(s) in the boxes provided.

Examples of federally recognized names include Chickaloon Native Village, Eklutna Native Village, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Knik Tribe, Ninilchik Village, Seldovia Village Tribe, Native Village of Tyonek, etc. There are 229 federal- and state-recognized Tribes in Alaska. If you know the village where you and/or your family are from but are not sure of the correct name or spelling, you can search for it at Know the name of your Tribe or principal Tribe and how to spell it on the paper questionnaire, as this question relies on self-identification.

Each Tribe has been asked to appoint a Tribal liaison to serve as the main point of contact between the Census Bureau and Tribal leaders. Tribal liaisons will receive updates from Census Bureau staff to share with their Tribal leaders, Tribal citizens and the community. They may increase awareness and Tribal citizen participation in the 2020 census by promoting the decennial census at Tribal or community events, distributing and posting 2020 census promotional materials and announcements, and promoting jobs to encourage Tribal citizens to apply for local census-taker positions in villages.

Become a Census Taker

To be eligible for a census-taker job, you must be at least 18 years old, have a valid Social Security number and be a U.S. citizen. You can apply one of two ways:

  1. Stop by your Tribal office and let them know you are interested in working as a census taker; or
  2. Apply online at If you have questions about job opportunities, call (855) 562-2020. Depending on the position, pay ranges from $28 to $31 per hour in Alaska.

Questions About the Census?

If you have questions about the 2020 census, contact one of the Bureau Tribal Partnership specialists below:

Donna Bach
(323) 791-2381
[email protected]
Ms. Bach covers the following regions: Aleut, Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Yukon- Kuskokwim Delta

Charmaine Ramos
(907) 952-6261
[email protected]
Ms. Ramos covers the following regions: Ahtna, Arctic Slope, Bering Straits, Chugach, Interior, Northwest and Southeast