Native American population reaches largest in modern history, census finds

The number of people who identify as Native Americans or Alaska Native on their own has increased 27.1% to 3.7 million people over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census.

Why this is important: The increase in the number of people who identify only as Native Americans or Alaska Natives reflects the steady increase in population since 1890, when Native peoples were nearly wiped out in the United States.

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  • The Native American population was reduced to less than 250,000 before the 20th century, after decades of mass extermination, forced boarding schools and land theft.

  • But years of resistance and legal battles over tribal sovereignty and civil rights allowed Indigenous peoples to rebound to their greatest size in modern American history.

In numbers : In 2020, the Native American and Native Alaskan population alone accounted for 1.1% of all people living in the United States. This is a jump from 0.9% in 2010.

  • 5.9 million more people identified as Native American and Alaskan Native and another racial group in 2020, such as white or black Americans.

  • Together, the Native American and Native Alaskan population alone or in combination comprised 9.7 million people in 2020. The combined population has grown 160% since 2010.

What they say : “The numbers really reflect the diversity that we see today in the real world and in the Indian country. So we’re very happy with it, ”said Yvette Roubideaux, member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe and vice-president of research and director of the Center for Policy Research at the National Congress of American Indian.

  • “But again, we believe it may also be undercoverage, due to privacy measures and other challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Details: At 15.2% (111,575 people), Alaska had the largest percentage of its population identifying as uniquely Native American or Alaska Native.

  • New Mexico came in second, with 10% of its population (212,241 people) identifying themselves as Native American only.

  • California has the largest population in total number, with 631,061 Indigenous people.

Yes, but: Tribal communities and Native Americans are scattered throughout the congressional districts, making it difficult for native peoples to gain political power by electing Native Americans to Congress.

  • New voting restrictions in States like Arizona could also make it more difficult for members of the Navajo Nation to vote, further diluting their power.

  • The Kansas legislature dominated by Republicans is set to redesign a district currently held by Democratic Representative of the United States, Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and one of two Native American women in Congress, who would remove her from office.

  • Democrat-led New Mexico redistribution body could also redraw the district owned by Republican American Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, who could also kick her out of Congress.

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