Door-knocking census activities will end an entire month earlier than planned on Cheyenne River and across the nation as a result of pressure from President Trump.
In April, the Census Bureau announced it would extend the self-response deadline to Oct. 31 as a result of COVID-19. In person visits to non-responding households were originally planned from May-July, 2020. These door-to-door activities were also extended to Oct. 31. That deadline abruptly changed last week.
Door-to-door census activities are specifically designed to get the maximum count of people in extremely rural areas, those who would not otherwise respond, and indigenous or minority communities. All of these apply to Cheyenne River.
Counting on Cheyenne River
In places like Cheyenne River most census collection is done door-to-door. This move will have significant impact on tribal funding for the next decade. The results stretch into the lifetimes of today’s children. The census influences education, healthcare, housing, transportation, economic development, access to grant dollars, legislative power, land and water rights, and self-determination.
“That’s really going to have a bad impact on us. It’s going to hurt us more than anything. I just want to encourage everybody, when you get the forms to fill them out and send them back in, because this will impact us for the next ten years,” said CRST Chairman Harold Frazier.
Census undercounts have hurt tribal nations, said the tribal leader, who said the 2010 undercount greatly impacts Cheyenne River to present day.
“I know the way they throw numbers around has never been in favor of the large tribes, particularly large land-based tribes. I haven’t had a chance to talk to any of the other chairman in our area about how they’re doing it, how things are going on their reservations. I was looking at some numbers and it really looked like us, Pine Ridge and Rosebud have had very low responses,” Frazier said.
The current response rate for Cheyenne River is 21.9 percent. The national response rate is 62.8 percent. The response rates for other tribal areas are Pine Ridge 16.0 percent, Rosebud 17.1 percent, Standing Rock 32.6 percent, Crow Creek 22.9 percent, Flandreau 39.9 percent, Lower Brule 24.4 percent, Yankton 40.7 percent, Lake Traverse 37.9 percent. Organizers are driving for a 100 percent response rate on Cheyenne River and across Indian Country.
Thom Eagle Staff, station manager at KIPI radio, said the station will participate in census promotion activities with Native Public Media.
“It’s very important that Cheyenne River really gets on your computer, or call somebody and finish it. There’s three different ways of completing the census this year. We just got to be able to encourage more people to respond,” Eagle Staff said.
KIPI will broadcast public service announcements from Native Public Media.
In an email to her team on July 31, Vicki McIntire, Deputy Regional Director for the Denver/Dallas Regional Census Center confirmed the team counting on Cheyenne River would end its work early. She reiterated the mission to “count everyone that resides in the U.S., once, only once and in the right place.”
McIntire said going door-to-door can start on Cheyenne River earlier than Aug. 11 as originally planned. Residents should be on the lookout for Census enumerators. All enumerators will have PPE and responding to the census is no-contact.
The Importance of Self-Response
Census workers will leave information at each house so residents can self-respond online or by phone. Given the shortened timeline for door-to-door data collection, self-response is even more important. Packets will have a census ID for each household. This ID can be used online or on the phone. There are only nine questions and it takes about 10 minutes to complete.
The Census Bureau has a mandate in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution to count every person in the United States every ten years. Each person in the country is legally required to respond. The census does not exclude anyone based on citizenship, immigration status, or homelessness. Some hesitate to respond for reasons of mistrust, lack of access to technology, fear about immigration status, or large households. Going door-to-door fills in these gaps. Workers take an oath and census data is never shared so no one can be penalized for their answer.