Contact: Decennial Media Relations
Unalakleet, Alaska — Braving ice and a temperature of about zero in an insulated coat and fur-lined "bunny boots," Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt personally enumerated residents of this remote Alaskan village today to kick off the first U.S. population census of the new century.
Unalakleet is a small village of about 700 people 148 miles southeast of Nome and 400 miles northwest of Anchorage. The night before the enumeration began, residents of the village, which sits at the mouth of the Unalakleet River, near the Nulato Hills, welcomed Prewitt with a town celebration, which included native food and dancers.
Traditionally, the decennial census begins early in Alaska, while the ground is still frozen, to allow access by bush plane, dogsled and snowmobile to remote areas. Also, with the spring thaw, residents of some villages head out to even more remote fish camps or leave their homes for other warm-weather jobs in the wilderness.
Prewitt traveled by snowmobile in Unalakleet to enumerate the first person in Census 2000. More than 80 percent of the population in Unalakleet are Alaska natives.
"If our very first enumeration hits 100 percent in Unalakleet, that will set a standard for the rest of the country," Prewitt said. The census is important for remote villages like Unalakleet. It will help determine the allocation of state and federal funds for services, such as schools, health care and emergency services.
Census workers are visiting each household in remote or sparsely settled areas of Alaska. During this process, census maps will be updated, interviews conducted and information about each household recorded.
In March, residents of larger cities, such as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, will receive their questionnaires in the mail. Census workers also will drop off questionnaires to residents in larger hub communities, such as Bethel, Nome, Barrow and Kotzebue.
The Census Bureau needs the help of local residents to conduct Census 2000. Job opportunities include census taker positions in communities and neighborhoods and office work. A large number of part-time positions are available. For more information on census jobs in your area, call toll-free 1-888-325-7733.
The Census Bureau guarantees that the answers given on census forms are kept strictly confidential. Information collected in Census 2000 will provide local area data needed for communities to receive federal program funds and for private sector and community planning.