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2020 Census — Making An Invisible Population Visible

There are 5.2 million known American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S., less than 2% of the nation’s overall population. Historically underrepresented — and undercounted — that population is often called “invisible.”

The upcoming U.S. census offers an opportunity to change that.

Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Karla Aguilar, development director for American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, welcomes participants to the NUIFC meeting in San Antonio.

Nearly 5% of American Indians in Texas were undercounted in 2010.

The National Urban Indian Family Coalition was in San Antonio Thursday to develop a message that encourages an accurate count of American Indians.

Rio Fernandes, communications and projects director with NUIFC, said undercounts deflect policies and programs that can improve Indian communities.

“One of the things we’re hoping to figure out is how to best distill this idea that as original people of this land, the people that were here from the very beginning, we have a right to be counted,” said Fernandes. “We have a right to have a say in the conversation that’s going on that’s going to affect us for generations.”

American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM) is one of the organizations that receives funding from NUIFC.

Karla Aguilar, development director for AITSCM, said a sincere, heartfelt message is key to demonstrating how the census can directly impact community resources.

“Because of historical marginalization and isolation that exists across the United States of American Indians, there’s an almost unwillingness to fill out the census because people feel they aren’t seen anyways, and why am I going to bother.”

Participants in Thursday’s meeting say an accurate count is vital to address issues like poverty, education and housing inequality — which disproportionately affect the American Indian population.

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.