Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during National Native American Heritage Month.
By Sydnee Chattin, Assistant Division Chief, Decennial Support Programs, Field Division, U.S. Census Bureau
I serve as the Assistant Division Chief, Decennial Support Programs, Field Division at the U.S. Census Bureau. My responsibilities include program development for the 2020 Census Partnership Program, the Quality Assurance Program, and the Special Census Program.
Specifically, I work directly with our six regional offices to develop a nationwide partnership program to reach “hard-to-count” population groups enabling the Census Bureau to engage, educate and encourage participation in the upcoming 2020 Census.
While attending college, I started with Census as a temporary hire in the Denver Regional Office. And, I have continued my career with the Census Bureau for 31 years. Over the years, I have worked at two other regional offices (Atlanta and Kansas City). During my time in these offices, I had the opportunity to work with many tribal governments – as well as directly with the American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
For the 2000 Census, I developed the American Indian and Alaska Native Program to help ensure that every person is counted in the decennial Census – this program is still being used today. I feel so fortunate I have been a part of providing service to help the tribes throughout my career.
I come from an American Indian family. My father and mother – who are both enrolled members of the Blackfeet Indian Nation – and stepfather all influenced me throughout my career. All three had very successful government careers working with tribal governments and American Indian and Alaskan Native populations.
During my youth, my father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was the first Director of the newly created Division of Self-Determination Services and had the responsibility to implement all aspects of Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. My father’s job required him to travel and work with many American Indian tribes. While growing up, we lived on a diverse range of reservations including Navajo, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, Apache, Laguna, Flathead and Colorado River.
My extended Blackfeet family also played a sustaining role in my dedication to tribal traditions and culture. As a child, I went to the local schools and this exposed me to many different Indian cultures and provided me the background to understand and work with the tribes I came in contact with while working at the Census Bureau
Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month each year has been valuable in bringing attention to the American Indian and Alaska Native’s community and culture. It helps increase awareness of the important traditions and cultural differences of the American Indian and Alaska Native people. It provides awareness of the past, the present and the future of the people who were the original inhabitants of North America. For me personally, this month is a time to reflect on what the Native Americans have accomplished and an opportunity to refresh my own awareness and importance of being an American Indian.