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Native growth rate slows to match U.S.

WASHINGTON - The boom in Native population, while continuing, has
apparently slowed to match the rate of growth in the United States as a
whole.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 141,000 American Indians
and Alaska Natives have been added to the population between the 2000
census and July 1, 2003. "This population increased at a rate of 3.3
percent over the period, roughly the same rate of increase as the overall
population," said the Bureau.

Tribes have often complained that they are undercounted in the decennial
Census, and since the 2000 one a good number of them have conducted their
own tabulations of their populations.

The Census Bureau has released information on Native populations in
conjunction with November's marking of American Indian and Alaska Native
Heritage Month.

Native population remains extremely bottom weighted, according to the
government, with children below 18 years of age making up one-third of the
population and elders over 65 just 7 percent. The numbers come to 1.3
million children under 18 and 305,500 elders of 4.4 million total (1.5
percent of the population of the United States).

Eight percent of the Indian/Alaska Native population is of high school age
(14 - 17). "Along with Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders,
American Indians and Alaska Natives top all race and ethnic groups in this
age category," according to the Census Bureau.

The Native population of the United States grew greatly both in numbers and
percentage in the 2000 Census, as for the first time the Bureau allowed
people to choose to identify themselves as more than one race or ethnicity.

More than half a million Native people (538,000) live on reservations or
trust lands, while 57 percent live in metropolitan areas (according to the
Bureau, the urban percentage is the lowest for any race). The largest
reservation in terms of population is the Navajo Nation, with 175,200.

The state with the most Indians or Alaska Natives is California, which at
683,900 as of July 1 last year had twice as many as the next most populous
state, Oklahoma, at 394,800. Arizona came third at 327,500, according to
the Bureau. Los Angeles County, with 154,900, had the largest Native
population of any county in the country.

Arizona appears to be gaining ground, as 29,400 Indians and Alaska Natives
have been added to the state's rolls between 2000 and 2003. That's twice as
many as any other state (Florida and Texas were two and three). A third of
that growth (10,800) came in Arizona's Maricopa County, which led all
counties in the nation in Native population growth.

Alaska has the highest percentage of Indians/Alaska Natives at 19 percent,
the Bureau reported, followed by Oklahoma and New Mexico at 11 percent.

Nearly 10 percent of Indians (381,000) over the age of 5 spoke a Native
language, with nearly half of them, 178,014 speaking Navajo. The Cherokee
were the most populous tribe in the United States as of July 1, 2003, with
234,000 members, while the Navajo were right behind them at 204,000. Eight
tribes had more than 50,000 members, including Apache, Chippewa, Choctaw,
Lumbee, Pueblo and Sioux. In Alaska, the Eskimo is the most populous tribe
at 37,000.

As far as percentages go, 48 percent of Natives in the United States are
married, according to the Bureau, and 56 percent of grandparents living
with their grandchildren provide care for them. Of 484,000 Native families,
61 percent are married-couple families. Just 56 percent of Native people
are homeowners, far below the national average of 69 percent.

Twenty percent of Native people live in poverty, based on a three-year
average of the years 2001 to 2003, reported the bureau. Median household
income for all Natives in that period was $34,700.