Thoughts on using American Indian/Alaska Native demographic category?

My organization recently got the feedback that using American Indian/Alaska Native as an option in identifying race/ethnicity is harmful, particularly as an organization that is not led by folks in the Native community. Of course we use this because it matches the data the state is collecting and we often to comparison analysis to see our population relative to the state population. We have considered changing this category to Indigenous/Native/Alaska Native for our internal collection while acknowledging that any analysis for the state or in comparison to state data will require me (the data analyst) to recategorize folks who have self-selected the Indigenous/Native/Alaska Native to American Indian/Alaska Native. That does not feel like an equitable data practice to me when that is not clear to folks who are identifying themselves, and I don’t want to perpetrate harm by maintaining the American Indian/Alaska Native category. I have some suggestions/thoughts on how we could land somewhere in between but would love to hear what other folks are doing/have tried/think is most equitable so I have some backing when I bring my proposal to the team who are not embedded in the practices of data equity.

Hi there @aleraas what an interesting question.

What there more information you could share about the thought process behind why using American Indian/Alaska Native as a race category is harmful? Is it an objection to the term “American Indian”? or is it something different? I think that would be important to be able to discuss in depth.

In the short term, though, it may be helpful to clarify in the question that is being used to collect the data why you’re using the categories you’re using. Maybe the question should say something along the lines of …“Which of these administrative race categories would you like to be counted in?” or similar. This makes it clear where the categories come from and that you will be using those categories.

If you do decide to offer an adjusted category like one of the ones you mention, I would have similar worries about recategorization.

Also, as always, it really depends on what you’re trying to understand about the people you’re collecting data from. I like how this article breaks down some of the complexity on this topic: