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Census 2000 Brief: The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2000

Written by:
Report Number C2KBR/01-15

Census 2000 showed that the United States population was 281.4 million on April 1, 2000. Of the total, 4.1 million, or 1.5 percent, reported1 American Indian and Alaska Native. This number included 2.5 million people, or 0.9 percent, who reported only American Indian and Alaska Native in addition to 1.6 million people, or 0.6 percent, who reported American Indian and Alaska Native as well as one or more other races. The term American Indian is often used in the text of this report to refer to the American Indian and Alaska Native population, while American Indian and Alaska Native is used in the text tables and graphs. Census 2000 asked separate questions on race and Hispanic or Latino origin. Hispanics who reported their race as American Indian and Alaska Native, either alone or in combination with one or more races, are included in the number of American Indians.

This report, part of a series that analyzes population and housing data collected from Census 2000, provides a portrait of the American Indian population in the United States and discusses its distribution at both the national and subnational levels. It begins by discussing the characteristics of the total American Indian population and then focuses on selected tribal groupings2, for example, Navajo, Cherokee, or Eskimo. The report is based on data from the Census 2000 Summary File 1.3 The text of this report discusses data for the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia.4

The term “American Indian and Alaska Native” refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who reported “American Indian and Alaska Native” or wrote in their principal or enrolled tribe.

Data on race have been collected since the first U.S. decennial census in 1790. American Indians were first enumerated as a separate group in the 1860 census. The 1890 census was the first to count American Indians throughout the country. Prior to 1890, enumeration of American Indians was limited to those living in the general population of the various states; American Indians in American Indian Territory and on American Indian reservations were not included.

Alaska Natives, in Alaska, have been counted since 1880, but until 1940, they were generally reported in the “American Indian” racial category. They were enumerated separately (as Eskimo and Aleut) in 1940 in Alaska. In the 1970 census, separate response categories were used to collect data on the Eskimo and Aleut population only in Alaska.

The 1980 census was the first in which data were collected separately for Eskimos and Aleuts in all states. The 1990 census used three separate response categories to collect data on the American Indian and Alaska Native population.

Census 2000 used a combined “American Indian or Alaska Native” response category to collect data on both the American Indian and Alaska Native population. Also, respondents were asked to provide the name of their enrolled or principal tribes. Previous decennial censuses collected data on both American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. However, Census 2000 provides more extensive data for tribes than ever before.

1 In this report, the term “reported” is used to refer to the answers provided by respondents, as well as responses assigned during the editing and imputation processes.

2 Tribal grouping refers to the combining of individual American Indian tribes, such as Alamo Navajo, Tohajiileehee Navajo, and Ramah Navajo into the general Navajo tribe, or the combining of individual Alaska Native tribes such as American Eskimo, Eskimo and Greenland Eskimo into the general Eskimo tribe.

3 Data from the Census 2000 Summary File 1 were released on a state-by-state basis during the summer of 2001.

4 Data for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are shown in Table 2 and Figure 3.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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