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American Indians and Alaska Natives - By the Numbers

Published: March 19, 2014
Fact Sheet

When Europeans first arrived in North America, approximately five hundred sovereign Indian nations were prospering in what is now the United States.  Each nation possessed its own government, culture, and language. War and disease reduced the Indian population from more than one million people at the time of Columbus to about three hundred thousand in 1900.  Since then, the numbers of American Indians and Alaska Natives has grown. 

The following information in based on Census Bureau numbers in 2012.

  • There are 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives making up approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population. 
  • There are 14 states with more than 100,000 American Indian or Alaska Native residents.  These states are California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota. 
  • The proportion of Alaska's population identified as American Indian and Alaska Native was 19.6 percent, the highest rate of any state. Alaska was followed by Oklahoma (13.4 percent), New Mexico (10.4), South Dakota (10.0 percent) and Montana (8.1 percent).
  • The median age for American Indians and Alaska Natives is 31 years, compared with a median age of 37.4 for the U.S. population as a whole.
  • While there are currently 566 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, there are 325 American Indian reservations and a total of 618 legal and statistical areas for which the Census Bureau provides statistics, including reservations, off-reservation trust lands, Oklahoma tribal statistical areas, tribal designated statistical areas, state American Indian reservations, and state designated American Indian statistical areas.  Twenty-two percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in American Indian or Alaska Native statistical areas.
  • There are approximately 1,122, 043 American Indian and Alaska Native family households.  Of those, 54.7 percent are married couples with children.
  • Twenty-one percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives speak a language other than English.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native median household income is $35,310 compared with $51,371 for the United States as a whole.
  • The poverty rate for American Indians living on reservations is 29.4 percent compared with the U.S. national average of 15.3 percent.  The reservation poverty rate for Indian families is 36 percent, compared to the national family poverty rate of 9.2 percent. 
  • There are an estimated 579, 000 American Indian and Alaska Native uninsured who have new opportunities for health insurance protections through a Health Insurance Marketplace under the ACA.