2010 Census Count Improving For Native Americans

Responding to chronic failures to accurately account for Native populations in past years, the Census Bureau has actively sought to improve its outreach for the 2010 Census. The Bureau got an early start and partnered with Tribes throughout the country to connect with Tribal members. The initial results indicate a significant increase in the response rate for Tribal members, which should result in better federal representation for Native communities. The information the Census collects helps to determine the allocation of more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year, for projects such as hospitals, schools, emergency services, and transportation.

The Bureau partnered with groups such as the National Congress of American Indians and took a government-to-government approach, making formal presentations to all 564 federally recognized Tribes and asking permission to conduct operations on Tribal lands.

A prime example of the improved accounting in Native communities is found with the Tulalip Tribes, whose Census return rate by last month had hit 70 percent — even before Census workers started their direct outreach to individual Tribal members. In 2000, the Tulalip final return rate was 54 percent.

The Tulalip Tribes plan a news conference to thank the Bureau for its efforts. "We're deeply appreciative of the Census Bureau for understanding that Indian Country was underrepresented 10 years ago," said Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon. "We do not forget our history, it hasn't always been the best of relationships ... but there's a new era here, and we're looking forward with optimism." 

NCAI Speaks Out On Tribal Embassy Purchase

W. Ron Allen

John Dossett

In response to recent coverage regarding the planned $8.5 Million purchase of an office complex to serve as a Tribal Embassy in Washington D.C., representatives of the National Congress of American Indians contacted Native American Legal Update to offer the organization’s perspectives.

NCAI General Counsel John Dossett:

“This is a smart economic move for NCAI and for Indian country. NCAI has been renting space in DC since 1951. It is very expensive, year after year. Ownership makes sense for a long term organization. Right now the real estate market is down in DC so it is a good time to buy. Our monthly mortgage payments will be less than current rent, and we will have twice as much space some of which we can sublease. We will work to retire the debt, then NCAI's costs will be much less and we can provide more services to tribes. More advocacy is an investment in Indian Country's future. (NCAI just helped to secure 2.5 billion in funding for Indian country infrastructure through the stimulus bill.) NCAI is also planning to co-locate with our sister Indian organizations, so the plan is to help out all kinds of tribal advocacy in Washington. This is part of NCAI's plan to become more economically self-sufficient so that we can provide the advocacy services to Indian country no matter what the economic climate is. NCAI President Tex Hall started this capital campaign in 2004, and it is a good plan for the economics of NCAI and tribal advocacy in Washington, DC.”

W. Ron Allen, NCAI Delegate and Tribal Chairman/Executive Director of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe:

“I absolutely agree with John Dossett regarding that this project is a great move by NCAI. What makes people think that because we are in a recession it is a bad time to buy. It's actually a great time to buy if your financial situation is strong, particularly because it is during these down turns in the realty business that you can negotiate a great price. That opportunity is what NCAI was able to capitalize. NCAI has continued to grow in its capacity to serve Indian Country and it Tribal membership and has an urgent need to expand it office space needs to accommodate that growth. NCAI has been generating a great deal of financial commitments from its membership because of its vision of finally owning it own Embassy in Washington, DC where the politics significantly affect the rights and interests of the 562 Tribes across America. I have personally been extensively involved in this initiative for over 20 years including when I was the President of NCAI (1995-99). Our time has finally come and I am confident that not only will we secure this facility, but retire the debt on a rapid schedule.

Indian Country has a right and even a duty to have a physical presence in America's Capital to remind the US political leadership of their obligations and commitments to the American Indian and Alaska Native peoples of this nation. AND on a practical note, I want to underscore the fiscal stewardship of the funds NCAI receives from its membership, we must use the funds to own our office assets instead of benefiting some landlord in DC.”

$8.5 Million For A Tribal Embassy?

Proposed NCAI "Embassy of Tribal Nations"

In the midst of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression, and with poverty still endemic in Tribal communities, officials with the National Congress of American Indians have announced they are close to spending $8.5 million to acquire a building to serve as an “Embassy of Tribal Nations” in Washington D.C..  Located at 1514 P Street N.W. in the Dupont Circle area near Embassy Row, the facility has a 17,000 square foot office complex situated on an 8,500 square foot lot. The compound contains three office buildings, three carriage houses, and boasts an executive suite. The interior of the building features high ceilings, hardwood floors, remodeled baths, two new kitchens, and parking space for 22 vehicles.

Tex Hall, former president of NCAI, stated that

In the end, this will be a visual example of what NCAI represents: sovereign nations. If we got something much cheaper, how would that make us look?”  He also observed: “There is big unemployment and poverty among our people – just getting by is the predominant issue. I think there has to be a targeted effort to help educate Indian country why this is worth it.

Commenting on the current state of Native American communities, the NCAI notes

the reality is that Indian reservations have a poverty rate of 26% -- the highest poverty rate of any ethnic grouping in America. Indian unemployment is disproportionately high. Indian health, education and income statistics are the worst in the country.”

The NCAI’s website indicates that the organization is devoted to, among other goals, “Indian health care”, “affordable housing”, “Indian education”, and “protection of programs and services to benefit Indian families”. NCAI’s public information sources do not indicate how much money is budgeted toward these programs, or what percentage of its program funding the $8.5 million being spent on an Embassy might represent.