Census Bureau: 2020 operations on tribal lands and reservations

Photo Credit: Census Bureau

The U.S Census Bureau is committed to a complete and accurate count of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population, wherever they live. The AIAN population is diverse and geographically dispersed across the country. While most do not live on designated tribal lands or reservations, those who do are among groups historically undercounted in the census. For years, the Census Bureau has been working closely with tribal governments to change this – and make sure everyone counts in the 2020 Census.

As part of this effort, census takers are set to go household to household and drop off census materials at front doors in tribal communities. This operation, dubbed Update Leave, promises to up the count by allowing us to confirm each household’s physical location and provide a special Census ID number in materials tied to that location.

Due to COVID-19, we delayed Update Leave to protect the health and safety of our staff and tribal communities. We made the move knowing we could still achieve a complete and accurate count – and are working closely with tribal leaders to determine the right time to resume this important operation. Currently, we are doing a phased re-opening in areas where it is safe to do so.

We understand there are many questions about how to participate in the 2020 Census. The Update Leave operation generally affects rural households that use post office boxes to receive regular mail or lack traditional mailing addresses. Most urban households use physical street addresses for mail delivery, so we mailed invitations and reminders with instructions on how to respond to the census. As a result, many AIAN people who live outside designated tribal lands have already received census invitations with a Census ID linked to their specific address. Using a Census ID when completing the census helps us get an accurate count and avoids the need for follow-up by a census worker to confirm household information.

We continue to encourage any household with a Census ID to respond online at, by phone or by mail and look forward to being back in tribal communities when it is safe to do so. We are committed to working together to shape our future.

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