Archived News

EBCI census will impact Tribal Council outcomes

Anita Lossiah. File photo Anita Lossiah. File photo

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is trying for the first true census of its citizens in more than 20 years with an electronic-only census open to tribal members through Aug. 31. 

“One thing that’s very exciting about this is that this is demographic information that the tribal government is collecting and providing for the tribal government needs, as opposed to the federal government census that of course collects it for the federal government needs,” said Anita Lossiah, policy analyst for the EBCI.

The census questionnaire includes typical demographic questions about the ages, incomes and education levels of people in each household as well as culturally oriented questions, such as whether anyone in the household speaks the Cherokee language. It also features questions targeted at understanding the social dynamics of the community, such as whether the respondent is caring for children other than their biological children and whether the household has access to a vehicle, housing, health insurance, broadband and fresh food. 

 “We hope that this will be the beginning of EBCI collecting more data to have more data-informed decisions in the future with our own information,” Lossiah said. “And this will of course help drive decisions, it will help drive what the government does to better improve services it is providing.”

Unlike the U.S. Census, which is mailed to individual homes in addition to being accessible line, the EBCI Census is being conducted solely through the internet. Lossiah said her team is not doing any door-to-door outreach to connect people with resources to complete the census but has been working to get the message out on multiple channels. Census information  was included on GenWell  and per capita checks, has been published in the Cherokee One Feather and is available on tribal government web and social media pages.

Additionally, she said, Tsali Manor is offering sessions to provide assistance to people who need help completing the questionnaire. Computers with internet access are available there and at other public buildings, such as the Qualla Boundary Library and Snowbird Community Library. Lossiah said census information has been presented at each community club and that her team is available to provide information sessions within these communities.

Related Items

“We’re trying to be consistent and equally reach out to all communities,” she said.

Tribal members who complete the census will receive a $100 incentive payment. People who submit responses by July 21 will receive the money July 28. Those who fill the census out by the Aug. 31 deadline will be paid Sept. 15.

The census will collect a variety of information that will prove useful to a spectrum of tribal departments and entities — but its original purpose is connected to a mandate found in the EBCI Charter and Governing Document, which serves as the tribe’s supreme law.

The Charter states that a tribal census “shall” be conducted every 10 years “for the purposes of determining the weight of the votes to be cast by each Tribal Council member.” Voting outcomes on the 12-person Tribal Council are calculated using a weighted voting system, with the value of each member’s vote ranging from six to 12, depending on the population of the community they represent.

But those vote values are based on old data. Despite the mandate to conduct a census every decade, no tribal census has been carried out since 2001. Tribal Council authorized a census  to be conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau in a 2017 resolution, but the tribal government failed to meet the deadline for requirements to secure federal help. The U.S. Census in 2020 coupled with the Coronavirus Pandemic prevented the Census Bureau from becoming involved after that point. In December 2022, Tribal Council passed a new resolution authorizing the census to be carried out electronically  using tribal resources.

During the pandemic, the tribe secured participation from nearly 90% of tribal members applying to receive stimulus money electronically, Lossiah said, stirring hopes that an online-only census could also be successful. She hopes to see at least that same level of participation in the census.

Due to the census’s implications for vote weighting, community-specific participation — not just overall participation — is important. The Charter requires Tribal Council to determine vote weights during its first regular meeting of the year, held in October. These weights “shall be determined by computing the mathematical ratio, fraction or proportion that exists between the number of enrolled tribal members residing in each township and the total number of enrolled tribal members.”

Lossiah said she hopes to compile census results during the month of September and complete a report in time for the beginning of the fiscal year — and of the new Tribal Council term — in October.

“We’re very excited to get this out and get it rolling for this census and hope to use this as a pilot and improve upon it for the next one,” she said.

Complete the census

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians census is open to all tribal members 18 and older, regardless of residency on or off the Qualla Boundary, through Aug. 31.

The census is available online at , but those who need assistance filling it out can contact Tsali Manor at 828.359.6860 or 828.359.6638. Tribal members can visit during one of the periods scheduled for walk-in assistance. These are 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, July 18, Aug. 8 and Aug. 22. Evening slots are available by appointment July 18. Tsali Manor is located at 133 Tsali Manor St. in the Yellowhill community.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.