North Carolina’s American Indian and Alaska Native Population

“The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, rode horseback from state to state, getting endorsements from 24 state governments, to have a day to honor American Indians. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994.”

U.S. Census Bureau on the history of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Nationwide, 5.2 million individuals identified as American Indian or Alaska Native on the 2010 census. This figure includes 2.3 million individuals who identified as multiracial, meaning that they chose American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races. Among the states, California had the largest American Indian and Alaska Native population (nearly 725,000 individuals) while the District of Columbia had the smallest, with just over 6,500 individuals.

In North Carolina, 184,000 individuals or 1.9% of the state’s total population identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, alone or in combination, on the 2010 census. With the exception of Texas, North Carolina’s American Indian and Alaska Native population is larger than that of any other southern state.

Among the 122,000 North Carolina individuals who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native (alone), more than 85,000 or 70% reported specific tribal affiliation or community attachment. Among the 62,000 individuals identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with some other race, a smaller proportion, 55%, reported specific tribal affiliation.

Nationally, Cherokee is the most commonly reported tribal affiliation or community attachment: 15.3% of all individuals who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, either alone or in combination, identified as Cherokee. This proportion was lower (10%) among individuals identifying as American Indian alone and much higher (23%) among individuals identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with at least one other race. Navajo (6.2%), Choctaw (3.7%), Mexican American Indian (3.3%), and Chippewa (3.2%) were the next most common tribal affiliations at the national level.

In North Carolina, Lumbee was the most commonly reported tribal affiliation or community attachment. Thirty-one percent of individuals who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, alone or in combination, identified as Lumbee. Among individuals identifying as American Indian alone, this proportion was much higher: 43%. In contrast, only 8% of individuals who are American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with at least one other race identified as Lumbee. Nationally, fewer than 75,000 people identified as Lumbee in 2010; 79% of individuals who identified as Lumbee live in North Carolina. Within the state, two-thirds of the Lumbee population resided in Robeson County.

Cherokee was the second most common tribal affiliation reported by North Carolina’s American Indian and Alaska Native population (17%). Similar to national patterns, the share of individuals reporting Cherokee tribal affiliation was lower among individuals who reported American Indian or Alaska Native as their sole racial identity (12%) and significantly higher (28%) among multiracial individuals. Mexican American Indian (2.1%), Iroquois (1.3%), and Blackfeet (1.2%) were the next most common tribal affiliations within the state.

All data used in this post are from the 2010 Census and were retrieved from Social Explorer. Data are presented for the population identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native alone or in combination, meaning that individuals who identify as multiracial are included in these statistics.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center.

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