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COUNTYWIDE : Indian Group Holds Membership Drive

The Candelaria American Indian Council is now holding an emergency membership drive, contending that the 1990 U.S. drive, contending that the 1990 U.S. Census undercounted the American Indian population in Ventura County, members of the group said last week.

The Council hopes to alert the federal government that there are more American Indians in Ventura County than the census count reflected, said Bruce Stenslie, executive director of the council.

Census takers counted 4,900 American Indians in Ventura County, but the figure is about 20% higher, Stenslie said.

“The census missed a lot of Indians who don’t belong to a federally recognized tribal group,” said Stenslie, who said non-tribal Indians are fairly common in California.

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“We are very concerned about this, because the federal government determines the funding for local Indian programs according to the census count.”

Many American Indians have moved to California for job opportunities, leaving states where the unemployment level has reached nearly 85% at some reservations, Stenslie said.

Stenslie said it might be too late to do anything about the census count at the federal level, but he hopes that the membership drive will show local and state governments the high number of American Indians residing in Ventura County.

“We want to make sure Native Americans have a strong voice in the community,” he said.

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The Candelaria American Indian Council, established in 1973, is a nonprofit social service agency based in Ventura County.

The council’s mission is to promote and encourage service programs for the welfare, education and social benefit of American Indians.

The council operates several service programs throughout the state, including a vocational job-training program under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor in Ventura, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, Stenslie said.

To apply for membership, an application must be submitted along with documentation of American Indian ancestry.

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Non-American Indians may apply for associate membership if they have an American Indian sponsor.

“We encourage non-Indians to join because it will allow us to educate a wider segment of society in Ventura County about Native Americans,” he said.

“It’s really important that people know how many Native Americans there are and about the many activities and programs that are available.”

Applications are available at the council office at 2635 Wagon Wheel Road in Oxnard.

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The telephone number is 983-0488.


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