About this Dashboard
This dashboard summarises data from the US Census ACS 5YR 2017, which aggregates for tribal geographies data collected by the Census at the Tribal Census Tracts-level. It allows to easily navigate key thematic information using the tabs menu. Raw Data available for download on the Tables Tab.
About the Data
The data presented on this dashboard comes from the US Census ACS 5YR 2017, which aggregates at the Reservation level data collected from Tribal Census Tracts. It presents for the first time selected key data in easy to navigate dashboards. Visualizations can be filtered down any available tribal geographies and downloaded in several formats. Raw Data can be downloaded from the last table.
To create these visualizations, we first extracted key data from the original Census Tables, and processed them into Tableau to offer the best user-friendly experience. Please read on about the stakes and inherent limitations of the US Census Data for Tribal Geographies.
Why is this Data and Dashboard Important?
Knowing key figures about geographies is crucial to inform any local planning and therefore plays a key role in supporting tribal sovereignty. However, the US Census just does not often collect demographic data for Tribal Geographies: “Most American Indian and Alaska Native areas have populations of less than 20,000 and therefore receive only 5-year data products . This means that for many topics, 1-year estimates of the American Indian and Alaska Native population are only available at the national- and state-level“. (US Census Bureau, 2022)
Additionally, the Census has a documented history of downplaying actual population numbers, as confirmed by the higher numbers systematically found out by tribally-initiated Census challenges. Demographic data is also essential for tribes, because federal treaty responsibilities are tied to tribal population numbers, which makes the issue of data accuracy very political. Many tribes have the local capacity to collect their own reliable information, but it is not the case for smaller tribes. Despite its many issues, the US Census Data remains the only nationwide source of demographic data for tribes.
Tribal Census Tract data is just not very accurate for small tribes. Yet the Federal Register suggests that: “In order to ensure a minimal level of reliability in sample data and minimize potential disclosures of sensitive information, a census tract should contain 1,200 people or 480 housing units at minimum, and 8,000 people or 3,200 housing units at maximum.” (Federal Register, 2018). But only 27% of Tribal lands meet the minimum population requirement for a census tract.
The way that the Census lays out data is also problematic, and some methodological choices seem highly questionable. For instance, while the Census released a report which identifies speakers of a selective set of Native languages by US county (US Census Bureau, 2021), there is currently no national estimates of Native Language spoken on reservations. And surprisingly enough, on the ACS 5YR data for reservations which address languages, the only questions regarding languages spoken outside of English ask about all categories of languages EXCEPT native languages. Literally, there are columns for “Spanish”, “Other Indo-European Languages”, “Asian and Pacific Island Languages”, and a remaining column for a vague “Other Languages”. But this “Other” category is quantitatively very significant! For instance for the Navajo Nation, a known territory with a large amount of native Diné speakers, this “Other Languages” category reaches 66%. In other words, the Census classifies as “Other” a category which contains more than 50% of the sampled population for some geographies, which is a clear methodological bypass. Why has the US Census chosen to exclude featuring Native Languages but instead displays a highly populated “Other Languages” category? Since the answer does not make methodological sense, it seems to be more political. But in the meantime, it continues the long history of erasure of the existence and resilience of the US Native Peoples.
- US Census Bureau, 2022. “Understanding and Using American Community Survey Data”.
- US Census Bureau, 2021. “Native North American Languages Spoken at Home in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2006–2010“.
- Federal Register, 2018. “Census Tracts for the 2020 Census-Proposed Criteria“.