Who Counts?

Making an accurate count of our nation’s population has never been a simple undertaking. From the first census, the nation debated who to count, what questions to ask, and how to conduct the count. Could a single mother be the head of a household? Could a Native American be counted as a citizen? Could an individual self-identify her race, or must a government enumerator make that determination? Was the count accurate?

The publications in this case reflect the complex store of the debates over the enumeration of Native Americans, a story that reflects the prejudices, values and cultural misunderstandings of the nineteenth century, and the gradual appreciation of racial diversity in the latter half of the twentieth.

For a more detailed history of Native Americans and the Census, please see the laminated timeline on the benches near the exhibit cases. Click on the multi-colored buttons below to see more information.