Here Are the 10 States With the Biggest Native American Populations

Here Are the 10 States With the Biggest Native American Populations

Native American communities are an essential part of the rich tapestry that makes up the United States.

With a whopping 574+ federally recognized tribes and 63 state-recognized ones, their presence has left an indelible mark on the nation's history and culture. But their story is not just a historical relic; it's a dynamic narrative of strength, diversity, and resilience.

By 2060, we can expect the Native American population to hit 10 million, underscoring their growing influence in the United States.

Now, around half of the Native American population currently lives on reservations, and there are about 326 of them, covering a whopping 88,000 square miles. These reservations come in all sizes, from the enormous Navajo Nation Reservation stretching through Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, to the tiny 1.32-acre Pit River Tribe cemetery in California – the smallest reservation in the country. Each reservation tells a story, a mix of challenges and successes.

To dig deeper into where Native Americans are living and the unique issues they face, we're diving into the top 10 states with the largest Native American populations, using data from the 2019 American Community Survey.

We'll explore their cultural significance, the contributions they've made throughout history, and the modern challenges they're tackling, as they strive for self-determination and prosperity. From the bustling streets of New York to the wide-open spaces of Arizona, these states are home to diverse Native American communities, each with its own incredible story and a promising future.



10. New York

Native American population: 73,560

Though New York was originally inhabited by the Laurentians, Abenaki, Mohicans, Eries and other tribes, its Native American population now comprises just 0.4 percent of the total population. Today, New York, one of the original 13 colonies, is home to members of the Cayuga, Seneca, St. Regis Mohawk, Shinnecock and Oneida tribes, among others.

Members of the Mohawk tribe, in particular, have gained a reputation as relentless ironworkers, helping erect the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and other major city landmarks. In the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohawk workers helped rebuild the World Trade Center, now known as One World Trade Center or the Freedom Tower. 


9. South Dakota

Native American population: 75,809

Almost 9 percent of South Dakota’s population is Native American. And only two other states have a higher proportion of Native Americans. The state is also home to the seventh-largest reservation in the U.S.—Pine Ridge Indian Reservation—which spans more than 3,200 square miles. However, life on the reservation is anything but grand. Life expectancy and per capita income are among the lowest in the country, and the school dropout rate hovers around a whopping 70 percent.


8. Washington

Native American population: 103,882

Washington is home to 29 federally recognized tribes, including its largest, Puyallup. Only four states have more Indian reservations and tribal areas. All across the state, tribal government businesses serve as a major catalyst for Washington’s economy—employing more than 37,000 people. Revenue from gaming and other tribal enterprises also funds essential services that benefit all Washingtonians. That includes health care, public safety, housing, natural resource programs, transportation and more.


7. Alaska

Native American population: 115,544

Though Alaska is home to nearly half of the country’s 574 federally recognized tribes, the Last Frontier is home to just one reservation. Nearly one in six Alaskans is Native American, the highest proportion of any U.S. state. The poverty rate among Alaska Natives, however, continues to soar. Almost one in four Alaska Natives lives below the poverty line. That’s about three times the poverty rate for white Alaskans. 


6. North Carolina

Native American population: 126,708

North Carolina, despite its noteworthy Native American population, is home to just one federally recognized tribe—the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. That tribe once oversaw a landmass of roughly 140,000 square miles, spanning eight states. Today, North Carolina boasts the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi. 


5. Texas

Native American population

Native American population: 144,993

Texas is home to three federally recognized tribes—the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Kickapoo Traditional Tribe, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. The state-recognized tribes include the Lipan Apache Tribe and the Texas Band of Yaqui Indians, the former of which originally settled in the state in the 1600s. 

Texas, however, was once home to hundreds of tribes. Starting in the 1950s, the U.S. government relocated more than 10,000 Native Americans to the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area in an attempt to integrate and assimilate the Native population. They even promised lucrative jobs, health care, education, and more.


4. New Mexico

 Native American population

Native American population: 199,341

Native Americans comprise nearly one in 10 residents of New Mexico. Only one state has a higher proportion of Natives to its state population. In total, the state is home to  23 tribes, including the sprawling Navajo Nation, which falls partially in the northwestern region of New Mexico. Roughly a third of its 300,000 tribal members live in New Mexico.


3. Oklahoma

Native American population

Native American population: 316,929

In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nearly 4,700 square miles, or roughly half of Oklahoma, is Native American reservation land. The high-profile decision settled questions of whether the reservation still remained in existence after Oklahoma officially became a state. Despite having such a large proportion of Indian Country within its state boundaries, Oklahoma’s population is just 8 percent Native American. Its tribal members include the Five Civilized Tribes (the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole).


2. California

Native American population: 321,112

The country’s most populous state also has one of its largest Native populations. The origins of Indian gaming can also be traced back to the Golden State. In the 1950s, relocation efforts pushed Native Americans from reservations, in droves. Many headed west, even occupying a decommissioned federal prison on Alcatraz Island. Once they claimed it as Indian Country, several tribes began holding bingo night and other games there to generate revenue. Once it was determined that the U.S. Supreme Court couldn’t effectively regulate gaming on Native American land, the movement grew from there. As of 2011, there were 460 casino operations run by 240 tribes, with a total annual revenue of $27 billion.


1. Arizona

Native American Population - Arizona

Native American population: 332,273

As far back as 12,000 years ago, indigenous cultures made their home in what is now modern-day Arizona. Today, the state boasts the country’s largest Native American population, with 21 federally recognized tribes. The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest, falls in three states—Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Nearly half of Navajo Nation lives in Arizona. In total, the tribal land spans a staggering 27,000 square miles. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Havasupai settlement—one of the smallest Native American nations in the U.S.—also falls in Arizona. Named for the water that flows from the Havasu Springs through Havasu Creek, Havasupai translates to “people of the blue-green waters.” The Havasupai reservation is the only place in the country where mail is literally still delivered by mule. The indigenous population has lived in their village on the outskirts of the Grand Canyon for more than a millennium. Today, the settlement is open to tourists. 

Also noteworthy, Havasupai's 450 tribal members only recently (2019) got set up with broadband internet.

 

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Paul G


17 Comments on “Here Are the 10 States With the Biggest Native American Populations”

  • Avatar for Joan Perkins

    Joan Perkins

    says:

    I was hoping for any info on tribes in Maine & N. H. My great grandmother was Native American from Maine & married a man rom N.H. but the family never talked abut it. I assumed she was Abenaki since she married into N.H. Must have lived close to the line. I spent around $500. trying to find out from different ancestry people with no results. They told me all about my father’s side which we already knew. I hope to help out somday when my son gets settled in a decent job & doesn’t need me anymore.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Thanks for writing!

      I have several resources on PowWows.com to help you trace your family history.

      First, start by reading our information here
      https://www.powwows.com/am-i-native-american-how-to-find-my-indian-ancestors/

      This page will give you links to more of the content about family history.

      Also, I have a free email to help you get started!

      https://ck.powwows.com/getstarted

      Be sure to join our Facebook group to talk with other people search for their family history.
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/nativeamericanfamilyhistory

      Let me know if you have more questions!

      Good luck with your search.

      Thanks,
      Paul G
      PowWows.com

      • Avatar for Samantha

        Samantha

        says:

        What can I do when the Rez will not recognize my Great Grandmother even tho she is 100% same as my Great Grandfather? It Gets Worse; they have reduced my & my Dad’s, his generation & his Mom’s generation & all my 1st & 2nd cousins’ Blood amounts on paper? We always knew who we are & our family history. We are all the same; the Rez’s issue is my Great Grandmother was born in a bordering state over the Rez’s line. We are the same Nation, same Blood, same Branch, same Clan, not mixed with any other Nation. How do we get through the bureaucracy & get Re-registered with honesty? We have all birth & marriage certificates. The Other Heart Breaking Issue with the Rez is that they took away our land rights with the reduction (on paper) of our Blood amounts. We first learned of this maybe 10 years ago & have gotten nowhere in fixing this.

  • Avatar for Lisa Henslee

    Lisa Henslee

    says:

    First of all,, I love your website.but,I have one ? Doesn’t Idaho also have a large nation? The reason why I asked is because I am from Idaho and have the Nez Purse reservation. And it’s also huge. Can you let me know how big it is .thank you😃

  • Avatar for Mary Saunders

    Mary Saunders

    says:

    Where does/did North Dakota fit in?

  • Avatar for Christy Beadle

    Christy Beadle

    says:

    I’m not native, but my heart is. I believe we all descended from Adam and Eve anyway, so WE ARE ALL RELATED!!! I also believe that the original peoples in our land treated the wolves, buffaloes, land, etc properly and want to see that treatment restored.

  • Avatar for Beverley GREEN

    Thank you so much for providing this information, and other articles too. I am interested in learning more about the American Indian peoples, the different tribes and populations and where they exist now. I hope someday to create a collaborative music project with Native American musicians in my region.

  • Avatar for Julia Skwanqhqn

    I was always intrested in the actual numbers of native american Indians. I’ve been asked several times, are there more of you, my answer I sure hope so. I’ve become hiyoka. Walking back wards? Thanks for the numbers. ❤

  • Avatar for aurelia phillips

    So thrilled to see an actual Native American to be in charge of the Department of Interior. Finally. A VOICE!! And I am certain, one who will protect – indigenous people and natural resources.

  • Avatar for Frances Zitzow

    Frances Zitzow

    says:

    I am so very happy for our new Secretary of the Interior. I do believe that the time is right for 1. A Native American and number 2. For Secretary of the Interior. All of the previous years the Interior Department has been run by people of different cultures and do not care or understand the way of the Native American people. Maybe now the Native American People can achieve the respect and understanding the way of the Native American People.

  • Avatar for Linn

    Linn

    says:

    I love to read these articles, and appreciate the information. Keep them coming….

  • Avatar for Jacqueline Hearsum

    Jacqueline Hearsum

    says:

    I ask the gods to give her all the white light she may need, and all the blessings your people deserve.I say as an English woman. It’s about time.

  • Avatar for Abigail Vickie Harris

    Abigail Vickie Harris

    says:

    Thank you for this information. It is good that we survive. It’s is also good to know that ;I am not alone..

  • Avatar for Wilbur Eddie Karmun Jr

    Wilbur Eddie Karmun Jr

    says:

    I ask our Great Spirit to uplift our newest Cabinet Secretary Rep. Deb Haaland to guide the U.S. Department of Interior that she may be an example to all of America!

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