Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which
highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the
president's vision of winning the future through their work.
blog by Jan Jacobs, Tribal Intergovernmental Affairs Specialists, Office
of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Census Bureau
As Tribal Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist in the Census Bureau’s Office
of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, I work with Tribal, state,
county and local governments directly or through our partner advocate groups.
More specifically, I’m the Subject Matter Specialist on American Indian and
Alaska Native (AIAN) programs and policy for Census – as part of that role, I
offer guidance and support to the bureau’s divisions, branch offices and
My journey to this role began as a child growing up in the deer clan of the
Osage Nation of Oklahoma. My father served for more than four decades as the
high school’s band director near the Osage reservation. My mother made
traditional Osage clothes to wear at the I’n-lon-shka dances, our traditional
annual gathering. She made exquisite Osage ribbon work and won national
recognition for her skill. I remember her being active in tribal affairs – both
regionally and nationally – and she often took me with her to meetings and
events. These experiences gave me an opportunity to travel around the country
learning from a host of Indian people. I still return home every June with my
family for my ceremonial dances, a time to reconnect with family and my Osage
culture. I am Osage every day, but the
dances help to revitalize and re-energize me for the coming year.
My upbringing differed from many others who grew up in and
around the reservation. My father worked his way through college and my mother
attended college at a time when most American Indian women were not able to do
so. It was important for me to continue this tradition of valuing learning and
so after I graduated with my Master’s degree, I taught for nine years in the
Bureau of Indian Affairs system and I’m proud to say that all four of my
children graduated from college and are active in their local Native community.