U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Skip Header

2020 Census Tribal Consultations with Federally Recognized Tribes: Final Report

Executive Summary

To design a 2020 Census that will capture a complete, accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs), the Census Bureau gathered input from federally recognized tribes. As part of an ongoing, government-to-government relationship with tribal nations, the Census Bureau held 13 tribal consultations with federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) regional and village corporations from October 2015 to November 2016. These tribal consultation meetings sought to:

  • encourage open communication between the Census Bureau and tribal nations;
  • gather tribal input on effectively implementing programmatic and operational activities;
  • record and address outcomes and recommendations, including the publication of a final report in 2017; and
  • provide information on and answer questions about Census Bureau programs and the 2020 Census.

The term tribal delegate is used throughout this report to refer to tribal leaders or their designees and the official representatives of tribes and intertribal alliances who attended the tribal consultations.

Tribal Consultation Topics

The meeting agenda was structured around the six tribal consultation topics covered in the
2020 Census Tribal Consultation Handbook. For each topic discussed, the Census Bureau
received valuable insight that will aid in designing and executing the 2020 Census to
capture a complete count of AIANs. The primary recommendations that surfaced across the
tribal consultations are highlighted below.

Population Statistics

Related to capturing accurate population statistics through the 2020 Census, tribal delegates provided the following recommendations.

  • Encourage AIAN people to provide detailed responses about race and tribal identities, and construct the question on race with simple wording and inclusive examples.
  • Leverage the role of tribal leaders as the trusted voices in their communities. Support tribal efforts to inform their own citizens about the importance of the census and how to respond to the race question to ensure they are counted correctly.
  • Refrain from inquiring about the enrollment status of AIAN respondents on the census form. Instead, work with the specific tribal leaders who have requested their enrollment data be gathered through the census and collect data for those tribes individually.
  • Update the code list used to classify responses provided in the write-in area of the race question. Include the various ways in which tribal members may report their tribe names. Examples include listing the name in tribes’ Native languages and including unique racial identifiers used by Alaska Natives.


Tribal delegates offered the following suggestions for mapping tribal geography.

  • Work with tribes individually to map additional geographies as needed, such as chapters or districts.
  • Reassess Alaska Native Village Statistical Area boundaries in partnership with villages, regional tribes, regional corporations, and regional housing authorities. Consider redefining these areas using uniform criteria.


Tribal delegates recommended the following approaches for successfully enumerating AIANs on tribal lands.

  • Collaborate with tribal governments to determine the best ways to reach and count tribal citizens.
  • Hire tribal enumerators who have local expertise. Enumerators should be familiar with their community’s people and geographic layout and fluent in the tribe’s Native language.
  • Work with individual tribes to determine how they would like their citizens to be counted. Many tribes expressed a preference for in-person enumeration, but ideal enumeration approaches vary from tribe to tribe.
  • Design the online census form to function despite connectivity challenges, such as slow or spotty Internet. Ensure other enumeration options are widely available for communities or individual households without connectivity.

2020 Communications Campaign

Tribal delegates suggested the following outreach strategies.

  • Partner with tribes to place messaging in tribal media channels, such as tribal websites, radio stations, and newspapers.
  • Empower tribal governments to conduct outreach to their own citizens by providing them with customizable materials and sufficient information.
  • Incorporate a social media campaign into outreach, while retaining effective traditional media approaches.
  • Create culturally appropriate messaging tailored to the local level that emphasizes confidentiality, cultural continuity, and the role the census plays in securing funding for community programs.

2020 AIAN Partnership Program

To strengthen partnerships between the Census Bureau and tribal nations, tribal delegates recommended the following.

  • Continue to engage with tribes through face-to-face consultation.
  • Partner with tribal governments and a variety of tribal and intertribal organizations to build trust among AIANs.
  • Promote and continually improve the Tribal Governments Liaison Program, through which tribal leaders establish points of contact between their tribes and the Census Bureau.

Recruiting for Census Jobs

Tribal delegates offered the following advice related to recruitment for Census jobs.

  • Partner with tribal departments and local organizations to recruit tribal citizens for Census jobs.

Overarching Themes

Through discussion about the tribal consultation topics, three overarching issues arose. These themes and their related recommendations are outlined below.

Affirming Tribal Sovereignty

Tribal delegates provided the following guidance for honoring tribal sovereignty in preparing for and conducting the 2020 Census.

  • Recognize that tribal leaders are experts on how to reach their own communities. Engage them as active partners in census outreach and activities.
  • Continue the tribal consultation process by consulting with tribes individually to gather tribal input and incorporate it into the Census Bureau’s decisions and approaches.

Addressing Data Discrepancies

To enhance the completeness and accuracy of census data for AIANs in the 2020 Census, tribal delegates recommended the following.

  • Educate data users about how to tabulate AIAN data to avoid skewed or inaccurate tabulations.
  • Partner with tribes to engage tribal citizens in the census and ensure everyone is counted correctly.

Census Bureau Communication to Field Staff

Tribal delegates offered the following suggestions related to collaboration between tribes and Census Bureau field staff.

  • Provide clear guidance and training to Census Bureau field offices about working effectively with tribes.
  • Communicate specific tribal preferences and challenges to field staff.

This report will be shared with Census Bureau field staff in preparation for the 2020 census.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes Thumbs Down Image No
255 characters maximum 255 characters maximum reached
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?


Back to Header