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Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Introduction to Tribal Concepts

Native people in pow wow regalia next to one another. One is wearing army fatiques and a beret with a feather.

Native American Demographics

According to the U.S. Census Bureau

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Native American populations are increasing. As of 2005, there are an estimated 4.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those identifying as multi-racial. They make up 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population.

The median age of the Native American population is younger than that of the U.S. population as a whole. As of 2005, about 1.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives were under 18 years of age, and 336,000 were 65 or older.

In 2005, there were approximately 170,000 Native American veterans of the U.S. armed forces. On a per capita basis, more Native Americans serve in the U.S. military than any other race of U.S. citizens.

The poverty rate of people who reported they were Native American and no other race was 25%.

Location and Concentration

Native Americans live in every state in the U.S., in small towns, villages, big cities, and on reservations or other forms of tribal land.

  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for the administration and management of 55.7 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for individual American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. There are currently over 560 federal recognized tribal governments in the United States. Developing tribal forest lands, leasing assets on tribal lands, directing tribal agricultural programs, protecting tribal water and land rights, and developing and maintaining tribal infrastructure and economic development are all part of the BIA's responsibility. In addition, the BIA provides education services to approximately 48,000 Native American students.
  • There are many tribal communities scattered geographically throughout the United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • As of 2005, the Native American population of California is the highest of any state, followed by Oklahoma and Arizona.
  • As of 2003, the metropolitan area of Farmington, NM had the highest percentage of Native Americans. Approximately 40% of the population. Flagstaff, AZ follows at 31% of the population.


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