OPINION: Saddle Up and Be Counted

BY KEITH AUSTIN
Tribal Councilor
03/08/2020 01:00 PM
Will Rogers was born in 1879 in the CooWeeScooWee District of the Cherokee Nation near the western bank of the Verdigris River. Barely more than 100 years before Will was born, the founders of the United States gathered together in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution of this new country. The Constitution mandates that a census must be carried out every 10 years. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the place they live for proper representation. The first Census was in 1790.

From the first census, Native Americans were not counted at all. When Will Rogers was a few months old in 1880, the United States once again undertook the effort to count all of its citizens. It is important to note that as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Will did not qualify to be counted as a US citizen or to be represented in congress. The first effort to count all Native Americans was 1890. By April 1, 2020 every home, including Native American homes, will receive an invitation to participate in the census.

Unlike when Will was a child, every Cherokee citizen is also a citizen of the United States and the census is obligated to count every Cherokee household. You will have three options for responding: online, by mail or by phone. As a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen, it’s important to mark American Indian as your race and write "Cherokee Nation" in full as your tribal affiliation. For every Cherokee citizen who fails to claim their heritage in the census, it is estimated the Cherokee Nation will lose about $50,000.00 in federal allocations over a ten year period.

The allocation of federal funds is based on population among other factors such as gender, age, race and Tribal Citizenship. The census is nine questions relating to the demographics of the household and takes about ten minutes to complete. Your community and your tribe benefit the most when the census counts everyone. When you respond to the census, you help your community and your tribe to get its share of federal allocations to support schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.

By the time of the Census of 1930, Indian Territory had become Oklahoma and Will Rogers, the Cherokee Kid, was unquestionably the most renowned citizen of both the Cherokee Nation and the United States. A Cherokee boy born in Indian Territory had risen to be friend and advisor to the most powerful political leaders of his day and his words were faithfully read in over 4000 newspapers.

While the census workers certainly knew who Will Rogers was, they couldn’t count him until he completed the census. When they didn’t find him at home in California, they heard he was in Claremore. They air-mailed the census documents to Claremore, but once again missed him. Finally they heard he was back in California where a census worker got wind he could find Will at the polo field. It was reported that Will Rogers gladly answered the questions… from the saddle of his polo pony.

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