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Understanding Indigenous Culture in ND Series: Tribal Makeup/Enrollment Part 7: Current Populations

According to the 2020 U.S Census Bureau, the current population of Native Americans in the United States is 6.79 million, which is about 2.09% of the entire population. Due to an undercounting of Indigenous people living on reservations during the 2010 census, the agency prioritized counting American Indian and Alaska Native populations in 2020.

There are 574 federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.. Prior to European settlement, the first peoples were at a population of 10 million.

Just 13% of Native Americans live within 324 recognized reservations. Land held in trust by the US government for Native American settlement is roughly 56 million acres. The 16 million-acre Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah is the largest and the 1.32 acre Pit River Tribe cemetery in California is the smallest.

15 states have Native American populations of over 100,000. Additionally, 15 states have Native American populations below 1.00% of their overall population.

California has the highest number of Native Americans, with a population of 757,628, comprising about 1.94% of its total population. Oklahoma follows with 523,360 Native Americans (13.36%) and Arizona with 391,620 (5.64%).

Alaska has the highest percentage population of Native Americans, who make up 19.74% of the state's total population, about 145,816 people. Oklahoma has the second-highest population percentage at 13.36% of the state's total population.

Vermont has the lowest total number of Native Americans of any state with 8,169, and New Jersey has the lowest percentage population of Native Americans, 0.67% (59,511).

Los Angeles County in California has the highest number of Native Americans, with a total of 233,000. Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota has the highest percentage of Native Americans of any county at 93.9%.

North Dakota’s five federally recognized tribes are: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate; Spirit Lake Tribe; Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Tribes, collectively known as MHA (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) Nation); Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

The North Dakota population, according to the 2020 US census, was 779,094, the fourth fastest growing state within the previous decade. North Dakota’s Native American population is ranked #22 of all states at 35,955. The Indigenous population percentage is 4.6% which is ranked #6 amongst states in the U.S. and it is the largest minority population in the state. More than half of Native Americans living in North Dakota live on one of the five reservations.

Red Basket, Dr. Kathy Froelich, an MHA elder and CREA Indigenous Culture Coordinator suggests this classroom activity to educators: “We are more alike than we are different.”

Goal – Students will identify the population of Native Americans in the following urban cities: Denver, Colorado- Los Angeles, California - Chicago, Illinois- Minneapolis, Minnesota- New York, New York- Phoenix, Arizona- Anchorage, Alaska.

One group of students will create a map showing the Native American population in each city.

Another group will create a map showing the Native American population of the following reservations: Standing Rock, Fort Berthold (MHA Nation), Turtle Mountain, Spirit Lake, Sisseton Wahpeton Nation.

Students will compare and contrast their findings.

The teacher will lead a discussion about what was most surprising about their research. What additional questions were generated by it?

· Here's why the Native American population had a surprising jump in the Census | CNN

· The 2020 U.S. Census and Indigenous peoples | Department of Geography (

· North Dakota Native American Heritage | Official North Dakota Travel & Tourism Guide (

· The States Where the Most Native Americans Live (

· States with the largest Native American population (

· See the Size of the Native American Population in North Dakota | Stacker

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