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Census names top 10 tribes

WASHINGTON ? Approximately 1.5 percent of the United States population reported "all or part" American Indian or Alaska Native heritage, according to a Feb. 12 Census Bureau report. The country's total population was 281.4 million on April 1, 2000.

More than 4.1 million people claimed "American Indian or Alaska Native" ancestry in the 2000 head count. This category, the report said, refers to people with origins "in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment."

In the 1990 Census, almost two million people checked the same category. The numbers from that count, however, are not comparable with the more recent figures due to differences in the way data on racial and ethnic groups are collected. Significant improvements in the latest Census were that respondents could report membership in one or more such groups, and had the opportunity to provide the name of their enrolled or principal tribes. "Census 2000 provides more extensive data for tribes than ever before," the report said.

Individuals who responded to the racial question by selecting only one category are referred to as the race alone population. Those who reported membership in more than one of the six racial groupings are classified in the race in combination populace.

"One way to define the American Indian population is to combine those respondents who reported only American Indian with those who reported American Indian as well as one or more other races," the report said. "This creates the American Indian alone or in combination population. Another way to think of the American Indian alone or in combination population is the total number of people who identified entirely or partially as American Indian. This group is also described as people who reported American Indian, whether or not they reported any other races."

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According to Census 2000, the three largest tribes in the United States are: the Cherokee, with 281,069 alone and 448,464 in combination respondents for a total population of 729,533; the Navajo with 269,202 alone and 28,995 in combination, for a total of 298,197; and Latin American Indians, with 104,197 alone and 76,586 in combination, for a total of 180,940. (See chart). Reported numbers are as of April 1, 2000.

The ten U.S. states with the largest American Indian populations are, in order, California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan and Alaska. All of these states contain over 100,000 respondents, as did Florida. When combined, these 11 states contain 44 percent of the country's population as a whole, but 62 percent of the American Indian populace.

As might be expected, 43 percent of American Indian respondents live in the West, while 31 percent reside in the South, with 17 percent in the Midwest and only 9 percent in the Northeast, the report said. American Indians comprised the majority of the population in 14 Western counties (in Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Utah) and 12 Midwestern counties (in South and North Dakota, Wisconsin and Nebraska).

The Census further revealed that among Alaska Native groups, Eskimo was the most frequently reported group, both alone and in combination, followed by Tlingit-Haida, Alaska Athabascan and Aleut. Together, these four groups combined for 3.6 percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native alone responses.

The racial and ethnic data gathered by the census is important for a number of reasons. It is used in each state's decennial legislative redistricting process as well as in monitoring compliance with the Native American Programs Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and other federal, state and local legislation. "Census information also helps identify areas where residents might need services of particular importance to certain racial or ethnic groups, such as screening for hypertension or diabetes," the report said.

A copy of the complete report, The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2000 is available online at