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Stats say Big Apple has most urban Indians

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WASHINGTON - New York City has moved past Los Angeles as the city with the biggest population of American Indians in the country, 2000 Census Bureau data show. But, with Native Hawaiians counted separately for the first time on this last census, the Honolulu metro area also has a claim to bragging rights for having the most Natives in the country.

Further complicating comparisons with 1990 Census data, when Los Angeles had the biggest population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, is the fact the 2000 Census for the first time allowed people to claim a two-race heritage, increasing the number of people claiming to be at least part Native substantially.

Nowhere has the Census Bureau added together American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians to come up with a Native census. But Indian Country Today's analysis of the 2000 data show that New York City counted 106,444 full or mixed-blood American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians within city limits, beating Los Angeles (66,236) handily. Honolulu, on the strength of 58,130 Native Hawaiians and another 5,117 Indians and Alaska Natives, came in just behind Los Angeles at 63,247.

Following the top three are Phoenix (38,563), Tulsa (30,715), Oklahoma City (29,805), San Diego (26,791), Anchorage (30,632), Albuquerque (23,016), and Chicago (25,513). San Diego had the most equal split between Indians/Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, nearly 50-50.

The numbers may be skewed slightly in that the Native Hawaiian category includes "Other Pacific Islanders" as well. In previous years, these categories had been included in the overall "Asian" category, making it virtually impossible to gauge how many there were.

Once the numbers are expanded beyond the cities themselves to the larger metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) they are located in, Honolulu takes the gold at 205,213, the vast majority of them, naturally, Native Hawaiians. The Los Angeles-Long Beach MSA comes in second, at 188,210, including 45,000 Native Hawaiians, the most after Honolulu. The New York MSA comes in third, at 116,247.

Most of the rest of the top 10 by MSA replicates the top ten by city (technically, "areas with more than 100,000 population"), but Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., Oakland, and Seattle crack the top 10 for Native population when measured by MSA.

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Most urban Native Hawaiians counted in the 2000 Census lived either in Honolulu or large West Coast cities like Seattle, Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The only East Coast city to make this top ten, both alone and alone or in combination, was New York.

Anchorage ranked tops in percentage of those who called themselves Indian or Native Alaskan alone or in combination, at 10.4 percent. Tulsa was second, at 7.7 percent, and Oklahoma City took the bronze, at 5.7 percent.

When measured by those who counted themselves solely American Indian or Alaska Native, New York still was the top city, with 41,289, besting Los Angeles (29,412) and Phoenix (26,696). Honolulu unsurprisingly still ranked first in those who counted themselves as Native Hawaiian alone, with 25,457, followed by Los Angeles (5,915) and San Diego (5,853).

Of the 4.1 million who called themselves American Indian or Alaska Native in the 2000 Census, 3.1 million affiliated themselves with a tribe. Of those, 697,400 identified themselves as Cherokee, the most for any tribe. The Tlingit was the largest Alaska tribe, with 17,200 people affiliating themselves with it.

More than half a million people (538,300) were counted on reservations or trust land. The biggest population, 175,200, was found on the Navajo homelands in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Distribution of Natives around the country was West, 43 percent, South, 31 percent, Midwest, 17 percent, and Northeast, 9 percent. The most populous Native states were California, with 628,000, and Oklahoma, 392,000.

More than 55 percent of Natives were found to be homeowners, with 259,663 of the total population above the age of 65. 800,000 found themselves below the poverty line, according to the Bureau.

Source: Census Bureau and ICT tabulated these numbers by adding together the "American Indian/Alaska Native" and "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander" categories.