Alaska Start IV

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

I learned that one of the challenges of the Noorvik school is a high turnover of students. Some of the children live for relatively short periods of time with relatives in Noorvik and then return to another village and another school. This is a natural result of the strength of extended family support networks. It is also compatible with the subsistence culture, in which family units follow the food from hunting, fishing, and plant and fruit gathering over the year.

With regard to children, it forms a challenge for the 2010 Census, because students moving across households may be missed in reports of who lives at the unit. Clearly, our method of enumerating native villages quickly and early will help, but our enumerators have to be careful to include everyone currently there and then make sure we have correct answers to the question: “Does this person sometimes stay or live somewhere else?”

After the enumeration of the first household in Noorvik on Monday we had a rather formal assembly with multiple speakers and the exchange of tokens of appreciation to those gathered. In addition to two plaques noting the nation’s thanks to Noorvik for being the first group counted, I presented a copy of the Census Bureau’s policy regarding relationships with American Indian tribes and Alaska Native communities. We followed that policy in Noorvik, consulting with the community leadership early and often, in order to make sure we understood their culture’s reaction to the 2010 Census. We attempted to respect features of the culture that affected how the information might be obtained. We attempted to be sensitive to the views of the elders, whom I met the first day at Noorvik. We sought the guidance of the village leadership on who might be best suited for the census taker roles. Our Alaska staff appeared to fulfill this policy in exquisite fashion. They were received as friends and trusted allies in getting a complete count of the village. Many of the village leaders made sure I knew how well our folks had done their job.

Monday evening we had a feast of moose, caribou, and muktuk (whale skin and blubber) along with more traditional fare like turkey and dressing. The meal was followed with native dancing from villages surrounding Noorvik (some as far North as New Hope on the Northern coast). Next a band of electric and acoustic guitars, drums, and keyboard appeared, playing mainly country and western music. The musicians were the mayor, the president of the Noorvik native community, and the school principal among others. They started with an old Hank Williams tune, and played other favorites they had grown up with.

We have one more day of training for the five census takers for Noorvik; we’ll probably begin interviewing Wednesday or Thursday (it was a late night Monday). Other villages will roll out similar operations over the coming days, in three waves following the anticipated schedule of the Spring thaw.

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4 Responses to Alaska Start IV

  1. Jessie L. Bower says:

    Wow, I am impressed with the responce of the Noorvik community! What a great start to the 2010 census! -Waiting and ready from Fort Wayne Indiana.

  2. Sue Anderson says:

    What a great way to put a face to the process. Thanks for taking time to share your adventure with all of us.

  3. Sylvia Maier says:

    So good to know that the students will be counted in one or the other places. But “traditional fare like turkey and dressing”? to whom?

  4. Leslie Martinez says:

    I think I would be insulted to know that what is my culture and ability to adapt, is classified by you as “subsistence” culture. As recently as the early and mid 19th century, American Anglo’s and currently many Native Americans, sent and send their children to live with relatives and boarding schools because it is easier for daily transport, ease of gaining education for the kids, and is the closest or most convenient method of schooling and following manmade law.
    My grandparents and my inlaws parents had many children and loaned thier kids out to fellow farmers and ranchers and relatives, so they could help and work and learn work ethic and family contribution and support, through fostering etc. Yes it was economically beneficial sometimes, sometimes it was just known as family culture. But, few would have been proud to know that
    the government called them poor or “subsistent” because they were a low income or rural, below the poverty line community.
    The census appears to have become a method for dividing up the money more than a method of counting citizens who vote for redistricting. The alternate problem with the issue you discribe is how will you determine that the kids are not claimed twice, in both households, causing the count to be as biased in the number, as you discribe could cause a lower count? You give the problem without the solution. The same issue arises with counting the illegal or asking the specific number of Hispanics and not specifically asking how many are directly from Cuba or Mexico. Some that realize they get more money for Hispanic education by claiming distant Mexican/Spanish/Cuban
    ancestry, even though their kids are in foster or never in the home, do often claim children, grandchildren or foster kids, so that the count is enlarged. A better question would be “how many non English speakers” live full time in this house. With no ethnic or racial data collected.
    If Brown vs the Board of Education, was determined for equal opportunity in
    education, the current counting and doling out of education money and grants
    using the census figures, has totally created a UNEQUAL distribution of
    educational dollars in grants, budgets and Medicaid funding. Another good question would be to ask how many pay into Social Security and Medicare, in the household. You wouldnt have to ask Social Security numbers to get a handle on how many adults work but don’t pay into one of the biggest entitlements. We are supposed to be the Melting Pot, not the divide and conquer, racial and ethnic special interest budgeting nighmare nation.
    The census has become a unequal distribution of wealth, effecting everyone
    including whites, blacks and oriental, due to the current counting of some ethnicity over others, and legalistic inclusion into the count of the major races of people rather than language and citizenship. What reason do you ask about home ownership and renter? Wasnt the original objective to count people?
    Just pointing out that your use of the word “subsistent”, in a friendly narrative of your effort to educate and vist one village, gives a clue to the current objective of dividing up the money and labeling people, over a orginal and national intent to count voters and give power to the people by accurately counting the numbers of possible voters and redistricting.
    The amount of money spent on the website and for educational materials, is also a total waste of money and makes your intent further suspect. The kids arent going to be filling out the census forms, and millions of Americans in one room schools learned the purpose of the census from teachers. In a time of recession and budget cuts, I would suggest your new “educating the kids” expenditure is a truly stupid and expensive idea, with obviously a budget that is way to big!Are you also requiring background and criminal record checks on all the people contracted and paid for census employment? That would be a much better investment of tax dollars.

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