Tahlequah office seeks census takers

Wednesday, January 5th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) -- Census officials are seeking job applicants in eastern Oklahoma to help ensure an accurate count of American Indians. The Census office in the Cherokee Nation's 14-countyjurisdiction has received about half the applicants it projects are needed to take the count this spring, recruiter Janis Walkingstick said. "So far we've only tested 2,500," she said. "We need to test 2,500 more people."

While people of all races are encouraged to apply, census officials stress a need for minorities in particular to conduct the count in areas where residents have been reluctant to return questionnaires, she said. "We just know there was such a large undercount in traditionally Native American areas and that undercount needs to be addressed," she said.

In 1990, the last time the government took the census, nearly 12 out of every 100 American Indians were missed. The Census Bureau hires census takers to survey their home areas with the hopes they'll be more familiar with the area and more accepted.

Cherokee Chief Chad Smith acknowledges a reluctance on the part of some tribal members to cooperate with the U.S. government in past counts. "In two of the most dramatic and damaging chapters of Cherokee history, each was preceded by census takers and surveyors," Smith said, referring to the forced removal of Cherokees from their lands in the South and the allotment of lands in what is now Oklahoma. But the tribe is dependent on the count when it comes to applying for federal grants for tribal programs, he said. He is urging tribal members to participate. "A 12 percent undercount can mean significant loss in housing or health or education funding," Smith said.

The Tahlequah office projects that about 1,000 census takers will be hired to conduct the count in its region. Typically, it takes about 5,000 applicants to fill the 1,000 jobs, Ms. Walkingstick said. Census takers make $10.50 an hour for the part-time work that lasts four to six weeks, she said. They can work evenings and weekends. Hiring won't take place for at least a month, but applications are being accepted now.

Ms. Walkingstick said the exact number of census takers needed won't be known until after census forms go out in March. Applicants are hired on the basis of a 28-question test that covers organizational skills, reading, map work and some simple math, she said. Applicants can call 1-888-325-7733 for a list of test sites.

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