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At 90, Native Alaska woman will be 1st counted in 2020 U.S. Census

A Yup'ik elder born to nomadic parents in western Alaska just after the start of the Great Depression is scheduled to be the first person counted in the 2020 Census.
Credit: Gregory Bull/AP

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska — Lizzie Chimiugak, who turned 90 on Monday, will be honored during a ceremony Tuesday in Toksook Bay, just off Alaska's western coast in the Bering Sea. 

Chimiugak will be the first person counted in the 2020 U.S. Census, which is taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Toksook Bay as the Census location in October 2018. The Bureau said because the village is directly accessible from Bethel, a hub city, and that approximately one-third of the Alaska Native villages are located in the area, it’s a good representation of a common Alaska Native village environment.

The past two U.S. Censuses' first enumeration locations have taken place in Alaska: Noorvik in 2010, and Unalakleet in 2000.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Alaska’s vast, sparsely settled areas traditionally are the first to be counted,” because the census takers need a head start due to unique accessibility challenges. “Many residents leave following the spring thaw to fish and hunt or for other warm-weather jobs, making it difficult to get an accurate count in the days leading up to the April 1 Census Day.”

Anchorage Daily News says on Tuesday the director of the census bureau Steven Dillingham will conduct the first census interview, but because of federal privacy laws, the bureau can’t confirm Chimiugak will be the first person counted, regardless of it being general knowledge in the village.

Completing the census form is not all the 90-year-old intends to do. She is also taking the opportunity to perform with Alaska Native dancers during the ceremony and raise the alarm of climate change and what it's doing to the fish and animals of western Alaska to other women at the ceremony.

In mid-March, the rest of the country will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information about how to respond to the 2020 Census, which can be done online, by phone, or by mail.

The officially Census Day is April 1, 2020, which is observed nationwide. 

For more information about the 2020 Census, click here.

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