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At least 150,000 more Natives since census

WASHINGTON - More than 150,000 more Native people have been added to the United States population since the 2000 Census, government estimates state.

The Census Bureau, in its annual thumbnail report on American Indians and Alaska Natives, reported an estimate of 103,000 additional Native people between the April 2000 census and July 2002, using a growth rate of 2.4 percent from the 4.1 million Natives it tallied in 2000. (For the first time in 2000, people were allowed to declare more than one racial identity, increasing the Native count greatly.)

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders grew at a 4 percent rate, meaning there were about 38,000 more of these groups on July 1, 2002 than the 943,000 tallied in the Census. If they continued to grow at that rate, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders would have topped one million by now.

Extrapolating another year of growth at those rates (2.4 percent Indian/Alaska Native, 4 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander) would mean a total of more than 200,000 Natives have been added in the three years since the Census.

The Bureau did not estimate the percentage of Native births or the number of Native people that have moved into the United States during that period, but it did estimate that nearly one third of all United States Native people are under 18, strong evidence that the increase is fueled by a high birth rate.

In contrast, just 292,000, or 7 percent of the Indian and Alaska Native population is 65 and older.

More than three million people designated themselves as tribal members in the 2000 Census, with Cherokee the most frequent, at 738,000. Navajo was second, at 298,000, followed by Latin American Indian, Choctaw, Sioux and Chippewa. In Alaska, Tlingit was the most populous tribe, at about 17,000.

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A little more than half a million people live on reservations or trust land, the Bureau said, with 175,200 residents on the Navajo Nation, the country's largest. However, Alaska and Oklahoma have large Native populations that live in Indian areas that are not considered reservations.

California and Oklahoma have the most Indians and Alaska Native residents, the 2000 Census showed, with more than 1 million between the two. Nine other states had populations of more than 100,000 Natives: Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan, Alaska, and Florida.

As far as rates in individual states go, Alaska led, with 19 percent of its inhabitants identifying themselves as Natives on July 1, 2002. Next were Oklahoma and New Mexico, each with 11 percent.

At the county level, Los Angeles County led as most populous, with 156,000 Indians and Alaska Natives, the Bureau reported. The highest percentage of Natives was recorded in Navajo County, Ariz., at 50 percent. And the fastest growing may be Maricopa County, Ariz., which added 9,000 Natives between the Census count and July 1, 2002. During the same period, the Native population of Fairfax County, Va. jumped 45 percent.

Not surprisingly, Honolulu County, Hawaii, had the largest number of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 179,000. Hawaii County claimed the highest percentage of Natives, 30 percent, while Bronx County, New York, showed the biggest jump in numbers between April 2000 and July 2002, with 4,000.

The Census Bureau snapshot, released in conjunction with the upcoming (November) American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, reveals some notable numbers, both positive and negative.

Among the positive, 381,000 people declared themselves to be a speaker of a Native American language. The Bureau said that the most numerous were Navajo speakers, at 178,014.

Among the negative was a Native homeownership rate of 55 percent, a full 13 percentage points below the national rate of 68 percent. And it said just 14 percent of Natives 25 and older had a bachelor's degree. Seventy-five percent, though, have attained a high school diploma.