HELENA, Mont. – Three well-known influencers of tribes in Montana are lending their voices to convey the importance of the 2020 Census for tribal nations in Montana and to urge those who have not yet completed the nine-question Census to do so before the shortened deadline of September 30.
“Responding to the Census is really quick and easy. It’s completely COVID-safe,” said Lily Gladstone, actor and descendant of the Blackfeet Nation. “It might sound boring or like it doesn’t really matter if you do it or not, but it really matters. Overall, $2 billion of federal funding goes to Montana based on Census information – and millions of that money is allocated to serving tribes and Natives across the state.”
The videos will be shared across social media platforms, aimed at reaching tribal members in low-response areas of Montana. One video features Gladstone, who was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Boston Society of Film Critics for her role in "Certain Women" and can be seen in last year’s "First Cow." Another is of Jason Smith, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs. And a third video is of Donnie Wetzel Jr., a member of Blackfeet Nation, education leader, mentor and co-creator of the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.
In Montana, nearly a quarter homes do not receive mail at a traditional household address. In some Montana counties and reservation areas, almost all households do not have city-style addresses. That means many Montanans did not get their Census materials in the mail earlier this spring because the U.S. Census Bureau does not mail to P.O. boxes or Rural Route addresses.
The U.S. Census Bureau suspended all field operations from March to early May to slow the spread of COVID-19, and then cut short the deadline to respond to the Census, to September 30. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 58.8 percent of Montanans have self-responded to the 2020 Census, which is below the national average of 65.5 percent.
While the federal government is responsible for counting all households every 10 years, the state supports the effort to educate and promote the importance of the Census. In June, Governor Steve Bullock allocated $530,500 to the Montana Department of Commerce to continue Census education and outreach efforts.
The Montana Department of Commerce is using that funding to partner with the Montana Nonprofit Association, Western Native Voice, Forward Montana Foundation and Missoula-based marketing agency Windfall to conduct targeted outreach aimed at low self-responding areas of the state to encourage residents in those areas to fill out the Census.
For each Montanan not counted, the state stands to lose an estimated $20,000 in federal funding over the next decade. Census information is also used to shape local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Montanans who haven’t yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so by going to MY2020CENSUS.GOV, by calling 1-844-330-2020, or by mailing in their Census form if they received one in the mail.
Watch and download the videos here.