Thank You to First Nations Development Institute

We are pleased to share with you a recent notification from First Nations Development Institute stating that they would be removing a controversial report from their publications library. Benny Shendo, Jr. the Chairman of the Board at First Nations, stated in a July 24th letter to the Urban Indian Health Institute, that they will delete from their website the research report, “Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America.” That report challenged some of the statistics that are commonly used to describe American Indians and Alaska Natives living off reservation in urban areas. In May 2017, in response to that report and concerns about some of the issues raised, we at the Urban Indian Health Institute, wrote the attached letter outlining the main concerns to Urban Indian leaders, colleagues, and other partners who serve AI/AN people.

In recent recognition of those concerns, Benny Shendo, Jr.’s letter stated, “A primary intent of this report was to contribute to the ongoing conversation about how data sources, especially federal sources, are less than ideal for Native people and communities. We are well aware that the US Census undercounts both reservation and urban Indian populations. Aggravating these undercounts are definitions created and used by the Census that are, at best, confusing. Thus, our intent with this report was to give a better sense of where Indians live, as we knew that it was not simply as binary as urban or rural, but somewhere along the continuum from reservations to large cities.

But over the past few months we have become deeply concerned that our research
report has, unwittingly, become highly divisive, as clearly evidenced by NUIFC’s [National Urban Indian Family Coalition] reaction and that of a few other urban Indian centers. This is a situation for which we were not prepared and is clearly something in which we greatly regret having played a part. We are an organization that is dedicated to creating healthy Indian communities and bringing them together, not dividing them. This was never the focus or intent of the report. While our research was intended to highlight the confusing, complex and, at times, contradictory ways that federal agencies (and the public) recognize where Indian people and families live, we feel it is best to remove this report from the website.”

We commend First Nations for listening and responding to concerns raised by everyone and look forward to working with First Nations in the future to see that data represents the needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives across Indian Country, both rural and urban and everywhere in between.

We thank all of you urban Indian leaders who advocated with us for accuracy in reporting urban Indian population statistics. Your collaboration in seeing that data truly represents our urban Indian populations is greatly appreciated and supports better understanding of the communities we all serve.


Abigail Echo-Hawk, MA
Director, Urban Indian Health Institute
A Division of the Seattle Indian Health Board
(206) 812-3036