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Wyoming at the Heart of "Indian Country Counts" for the 2010 Census

January 4, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming is at the heart of "Indian Country Counts," a special focus of the U.S. Bureau of the Census regional road tours starting off this week. Native American census response has been typically low in the past, at under 50 percent. The road tours assure people that the information they share is confidential and that filling out the forms when they arrive in mailboxes in March will be quick and easy.

Lee Gash-Maxey is a census tour producer, who says the goal is to explain the reasons behind each of the ten questions on the census form.

"They'll see each question in a life-sized panel. And they can walk through and just get a feel for what they're going to be asked when their questionnaire arrives in the mail."

The census results are used for apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as in state legislatues. The figures are also used to distribute more than $400 billion in public funds for schools, transportation and health care. For example, H1N1 flu vaccines were distributed based on the last census count.

Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council chairman James Steele, Jr., says everyone needs be counted for a fair share of federal money.

"In the long run, it benefits all of the people. With such a strain on a lot of budgets in rural areas, it really helps protect the community, and ultimately, that's what this is."

For the last census in 2000, about 65 percent of non-Native Americans returned questionnaires by mail. Those who did not respond were contacted in person by Census Bureau workers. The mail-in forms save the government money, so this year's goal is get at least 70 percent of Americans to send them in.

Information on the road tour and other census news is at: www.2010census.gov

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY