Group pushing Hawaiians for census


POSTED: Monday, November 02, 2009

In the 16th century, Big Island ruler Umi a Liloa made sure all native Hawaiians on the island were counted.

Every ahupuaa had an ahu made of stones, with each stone representing the men, women and children in the district, said Momi Fernandez, who is leading an effort to make sure native Hawaiians are fully counted in the 2010 U.S. census.

Fernandez said Umi a Liloa was able to distribute resources and keep track of his people's needs through the stone count.

“;If we could do that for our people in the 1500s, we can do this now,”; Fernandez said.

Fernandez, information director at the native Hawaiian health care organization Papa Ola Lokahi, said the census data helps determine funding and other demographic information for her group and other native Hawaiian organizations.

Hawaii's participation in the 2000 census was among the third lowest in the nation, with only about 60 percent of forms returned.

The national average was 67 percent.

In some heavily native Hawaiian areas, approximate participation was 40 percent, Fernandez said.

At a briefing last week, census officials said every person not counted means about $1,200 a year in lost dollars for the state.

Census officials from Los Angeles were in Hawaii, meeting with community groups, including native Hawaiians, last month to raise awareness and participation in next year's census.

The Census 2010 Web site will become active this month.

Forms will be mailed out in March for the April 1 count.