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Edna Paisano (Nez Perce Tribe)

Edna Paisano, Statistician, Nez Perce/Laguna Pueblo (1948-2014)

Edna Lee Paisano was a demographer and statistician. She received her bachelor’s degree and her Master’s from the University of Washington. Her Masters was in sociology and as part of her research, she studied statistics.  She  began working at the US Census Bureau in June, 1976 and was the first full time Native American hired by the Bureau.  As a Native American, she was the primary statistician to advocate developing  an inclusive US census program for the American Indian and Alaska Native governments and populations in order to improve representation of Indigenous peoples.  She advocated using statistics and computer programming to obtain accurate counts of minority populations so that they could receive the right proportions of resources and program funding. In so doing, she identified a systemic undercounting of regions where large proportions of people were Native American. This was an important step since accurate census data is crucial to the tribal governments and organizations in their development of reservation or urban social and economic resources as well as land areas. Along with evaluating American Indian and  Alaskan Natives, her program area also developed the data on other race groups including Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, and White populations. Edna is credited with substantially increasing the accuracy of the Indigenous population by about 38% between the 1980 census and 1990 census. Apart from her work with the Racial Statistics Branch in the Population Division of the Census Bureau, she worked on the Interagency Task Force on American Indian Women.  After 20 years at the Census Bureau, Paisano had a one year job with the Environmental Protection Agency and afterwards, went on to become the chief statistician of the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services.

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