Census 2020: Ensuring Native Americans On Long Island Get Counted

Mar 3, 2020

A new project will organize indigenous people in Suffolk County to make sure they are counted accurately in the U.S. Census.

Members of the indigenous nations in Suffolk say being counted for the census was, at one point, a threat. 

“Being counted was dangerous at one time. If you were counted, perhaps they might take your children away, perhaps they might force you to leave from a reservation under threat of losing your sovereignty, losing your rights as a nation, losing your rights as individuals of a nation” said Henry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation.

The census regularly undercounts indigenous people because members of native nations don’t trust the institutions of the United States. But Wallace says, things have changed, and indigenous people should make sure they are represented.

“If they’ll choose to be counted and choose to vote, they can participate in the process without the threat of losing their sovereignty or the threat of losing their individual rights as members of native nations here on Long Island.”

The project was organized by Stony Brook’s School of Social Welfare. It includes four indigenous tribes in Suffolk: the Unkechaug, Montaukett, Setalcott and Shinnecock.

Data from the Census Bureau shows some areas in Suffolk where indigenous people lived were undercounted by up to 40 percent in 2010. Government officials say native tribes have a higher risk of not being fully counted in the 2020 Census. 

Wallace says an accurate count could mean better services.

“Our people, our numbers are growing.” 

Census forms will be sent to households by April 1. 

A new project will organize indigenous people in Suffolk County to make sure they are counted accurately in the U.S. Census.