The Trump administration’s fear-mongering tactics against immigrant communities surrounding the 2020 census may have been shocking to some, but it’s not the first time the government has used the census as a tool of oppression. Native people, in particular, are the most undercounted ethnic group in the census’ history. Native people were excluded from the first 70 years under the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly regarded “Indians not taxed,” or those living on reservations or unsettled territories, as not countable. In more recent years, the U.S. Census Bureau’s own data has shown significant undercounting. In the 1990 census, 12.2 percent of Native people on reservations were undercounted, according to the Census Bureau’s findings. A decade later, the census seemed to improve, with the bureau not reporting a statistically significant undercount. But then in 2010, it jumped back up to 4.9 percent.
This is particularly devastating for Indigenous people because of how census data has been used to help determine many aspects of tribal sovereignty, such as tribal recognition and enrollment . . .