The nation’s next census count is in 2010 and a number of minority groups and communities have expressed a concern about a possible undercount. The federal government doles out over $400 billion dollars a year for schools, health care services, scholarships, and other services to various communities and groups based on population. An undercount could cost a community or group their fair share of government allocations. The concern of an undercount was discussed at the recent state wide Native American Conference at USC in Columbia. Chief of the Catawba Nation Donald Rogers, whose Catawba name is Red Cloud, says his tribe has an advantage in that it is the only federally recognized tribe in the state.
“We kind of have a heads up on some things becuse of all the national and regional meetings I attend with other tribal chiefs across the Southeast. There is continual awareness of the census and opportunities for us.” South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs Native American Coordinator Marcy Hayden says there are currently 30 Native American entities in the state which includes 15 state recognized tribes, as well as various groups, and special interest organizations.
Rogers says in order for a tribe to receive a proper count not only does “Native American” need to be listed under ethnicity, but the respondent should also note the tribe of which he or she belongs. Rogers says as a federally-recognized tribe the Catawba Nation takes advantage of various programs and meetings concerning accurate population counts. “We have a liaison that’s dedicated to the tribe from the Census Bureau that we have been meeting with on a regular basis. The liaison has been getting information to us and helping us to get that information prepared to forward on to members of our tribe. When they get their census packets in the mail they will be mindful that they need to write down that they are Catawba in the Census survey.
The U.S. Census Bureau packets will be mailed out in March.
Rogers notes that the Catawba Nation also keeps its own count for its records. “We have out own tribal roll and we keep that information. In fact, the federal government has a copy of our roll as well, our initial roll of 2000. However we continue to have children and our roll continues to increase. We have deaths and the roll is deceased by those. With the information we have and the liaison we have to work with, and the opportunities we have to get information to our people through various means, and the regional and national meetings, it gives us a great opportunity to make people aware.”
Just as important as government allocations are concerned, the proper population count also has governmental and constitutional implications for federally recognized tribes. “Sometimes with the census, they collaborate that information particularly with the government. Our (tribal) constitution is unique. We have to have a certain number of people to attend our general council meetings. The number of 18 year olds, we have to keep up with those, because as the number of 18 year olds increase our voting population increases and some of our percentages within the government change concerning the amount of people we need to ratify laws
Rogers says a committee has been working on an updated tribal constitution that he hopes will be ready for the Catawba Nation to vote on in March or April.