By Joe Nelson
"We made history here today," Christy said during a special ceremony outside the San Manuel Tribal Community Center.
Tribal Chairman James Ramos stressed the significance of methodically and thoroughly counting American Indians in the census so that they be eligible for some of the $400 billion in federal funds earmarked for health care, education and other programs.
"This is a big statement. We want to make sure every Indian person is properly accounted for," Ramos said.
By David Olson
Murillo, 76, is a beloved figure in the tribe, a leader in preserving the Cahuilla language and in educating people of the Serrano people's history and culture.
"We've been here forever, and it's about time we get counted," Murillo said after a census celebration held outside the tribal community center, on the San Manuel Reservation in the foothills above Highland.
Christy said the Census Bureau chose Murillo to honor American Indians and their status as the first inhabitants of what is now the United States.
House Passes Baca Legislation Promoting Accurate Census Count in Indian Country
Legislation Calls for Tribal Elders to be Involved in Census Awareness Activities
“The 2010 Census will be used as the basis for future federal funding for Medicaid and over 1,400 other vital programs,” said Congressman Baca. “Full participation in the upcoming Census is essential to the well being of all our Native American communities. In the Inland area, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has already proposed to name an elder as the first member of their community to answer the 2010 Census. By encouraging all our nation’s tribal communities to follow this same approach, my legislation will lead to a more accurate count and ensure that Native Americans receives the proper federal funding they are due.”
The 2010 Census is a massive undertaking that is of vital importance to all of America’s communities and families. The federal government uses census data to determine funding levels for localities for everything from education, public safety and judicial programs, public transportation, and nutrition and public health programs. In addition, census information is used to determine local representative boundaries for both state and federal elective offices. Elders are looked upon as trusted leaders in most Native American communities. With their strong levels of influence, they can help better carry the message of how important an accurate 2010 Census Count is to our future.
“The census provides information that is necessary to everyone from government to business,” added Rep. Baca. “I thank my colleagues in the House for acting quickly to pass this critical legislation, which respects the proud heritage of our Native Americans by involving tribal elders in the 2010 Census process. There is too much at stake--we can not afford an undercount in Indian Country, or for that matter, in any other community across the United States.”
The San Manuel event obviously got some media coverage, but I heard it was a mess. People didn't know who the first form filler would be. Film crews weren't there to record Murillo as she completed her form. Other tribes weren't invited, so many of the seats were empty. The Census staff ran out of bumper stickers and other handouts. Etc.
It seems like the people in charge are overworked, underqualified, or both. Which still amazes me. With 10 years to plan this Census, it should be running like clockwork. Instead, an outsider like me is proposing an Internet communications strategy with six weeks to go because no one's made it happen yet.
For more on the subject, see Oneidas Undercounted in 2000 Census and Video of My Census Meeting.
Below: "Pauline Murillo, 76, an elder of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, is the first person in the Southern California region officially counted in the 2010 census. The U.S. Census Bureau is increasing efforts to accurately count American Indians in this decade's survey." (Silvia Flores/The Press-Enterprise)