Special Report

States With the Largest Native American Populations

eyecrave / Getty Images

Thanksgiving is considered a time of rest, reflection, and family gathering for the majority of Americans. The feast symbolizes the cooperation of European colonists and the continent’s Native residents, who have since endured centuries of oppression and forced assimilation. Today, Native American culture is concentrated in the nation’s many Indian reservations, and in the heritage of millions of Americans.

Today, there are roughly 5.6 million people who identify as Native American living in the United States, according to Census data. Scholars estimate that up to 10 million Native Americans inhabited what is now the United States at the time Christopher Columbus first stepped foot onto the Americas in 1492. That number rapidly plummeted over the course of European colonization, largely due to war and the spread of disease. The recorded population at the turn of the 20th century was about 250,000.

Accurately counting native populations in the United States has always been particularly difficult, said David Beck, professor in the department of Native American Studies at the University of Montana.

“When Census counts were made, American Indians wouldn’t participate in the Census because our federal policy, oftentimes, was very discriminatory against them and so people didn’t want to be identified,” said Beck.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 5-year American Community Survey to identify the states with the the largest share of the population who self-identify as Native American or report having Native American heritage.

Click here to see the states with the largest Native American populations.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: KatVitulano Photos / Flickr

50. New Jersey
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.70% (62,804)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (11,129)
> Total state population: 8,915,456 (11th highest)

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Source: Public Herald / Flickr

49. Massachusetts
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.73% (49,405)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (7,049)
> Total state population: 6,742,143 (14th highest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

48. Pennsylvania
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.77% (98,310)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (21,675)
> Total state population: 12,783,977 (6th highest)

Source: wellesenterprises / Getty Images

47. Illinois
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.77% (99,383)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (24,317)
> Total state population: 12,851,684 (5th highest)

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

46. Kentucky
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.77% (34,126)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (14,245)
> Total state population: 4,411,989 (25th lowest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

45. Mississippi
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.82% (24,578)
> Largest Native American group: Choctaw (11,071)
> Total state population: 2,989,192 (20th lowest)

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Source: Juanmonino / Getty Images

44. Florida
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.83% (165,888)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (44,541)
> Total state population: 19,934,451 (3rd highest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

43. Indiana
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.84% (55,391)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (18,029)
> Total state population: 6,589,578 (16th highest)

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

42. New Hampshire
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.85% (11,244)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (2,133)
> Total state population: 1,327,503 (9th lowest)

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Source: nicoolay / Getty Images

41. Iowa
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.86% (26,718)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (4,545)
> Total state population: 3,106,589 (21st lowest)

Source: pkphotography / Getty Images

40. Georgia
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.87% (88,365)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (31,966)
> Total state population: 10,099,320 (8th highest)

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Source: ehrlif / iStock

39. Ohio
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.90% (104,392)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (37,692)
> Total state population: 11,586,941 (7th highest)

Source: Boston Public Library / Wikimedia Commons

38. South Carolina
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 0.96% (46,219)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (16,707)
> Total state population: 4,834,605 (24th highest)

Source: Xasartha / Wikimedia Commons

37. Delaware
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.01% (9,443)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (2,224)
> Total state population: 934,695 (6th lowest)

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Source: BackyardProduction / Getty Images

36. West Virginia
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.01% (18,687)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (8,323)
> Total state population: 1,846,092 (13th lowest)

Source: usdagov / Flickr

35. Tennessee
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.03% (67,290)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (35,038)
> Total state population: 6,548,009 (17th highest)

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Source: sarahvain / Flickr

34. Virginia
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.03% (85,820)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (25,374)
> Total state population: 8,310,301 (12th highest)

Source: The Bearmaiden / Flickr

33. Connecticut
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.04% (37,216)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (5,176)
> Total state population: 3,588,570 (22nd lowest)

Source: Dave Pape / Wikimedia Commons

32. New York
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.05% (205,873)
> Largest Native American group: Iroquois (34,569)
> Total state population: 19,697,457 (4th highest)

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Source: ftmeade / Flickr

31. Maryland
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.07% (64,022)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (15,307)
> Total state population: 5,959,902 (19th highest)

Source: Donna L. Burnett / USAF

30. Alabama
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.27% (61,383)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (27,330)
> Total state population: 4,841,164 (23rd highest)

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Source: Carol M. Highsmith

29. Texas
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.28% (344,565)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (79,468)
> Total state population: 26,956,435 (2nd highest)

Source: ericharrison / Flickr

28. Rhode Island
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.32% (13,959)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (1,557)
> Total state population: 1,054,491 (8th lowest)

Source: faungg's photos / Flickr

27. Louisiana
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.33% (61,602)
> Largest Native American group: Houma (12,392)
> Total state population: 4,645,670 (25th highest)

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Source: WorldExotc21 / Getty Images

26. Missouri
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.38% (83,629)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (33,908)
> Total state population: 6,059,651 (18th highest)

Source: Hosmich / Wikimedia Commons

25. Vermont
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.39% (8,697)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (1,011)
> Total state population: 626,249 (2nd lowest)

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Source: Xasartha / Wikimedia Commons

24. Michigan
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.55% (153,750)
> Largest Native American group: Chippewa (39,441)
> Total state population: 9,909,600 (10th highest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

23. Nebraska
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.63% (30,632)
> Largest Native American group: Sioux (7,434)
> Total state population: 1,881,259 (14th lowest)

Source: ilbusca / Getty Images

22. Wisconsin
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.67% (96,315)
> Largest Native American group: Chippewa (23,335)
> Total state population: 5,754,798 (20th highest)

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Source: raksybH / Getty Images

21. Maine
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.71% (22,706)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (1,738)
> Total state population: 1,329,923 (10th lowest)

Source: Xasartha / Wikimedia Commons

20. Arkansas
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.78% (52,927)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (25,947)
> Total state population: 2,968,472 (19th lowest)

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Source: dicau58 / Flickr

19. Utah
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.80% (53,052)
> Largest Native American group: Navajo (19,539)
> Total state population: 2,948,427 (18th lowest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

18. Minnesota
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.92% (104,514)
> Largest Native American group: Chippewa (51,394)
> Total state population: 5,450,868 (21st highest)

Source: Marvin Lynchard / DoD

17. California
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 1.97% (762,617)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (127,218)
> Total state population: 38,654,206 (the highest)

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Source: krugerpictures / Flickr

16. North Carolina
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.00% (199,213)
> Largest Native American group: Lumbee (70,529)
> Total state population: 9,940,828 (9th highest)

Source: Flory / Getty Images

15. Nevada
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.10% (59,611)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (8,290)
> Total state population: 2,839,172 (16th lowest)

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Source: U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Don Branum

14. Colorado
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.18% (116,673)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (20,652)
> Total state population: 5,359,295 (22nd highest)

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/courthouselover/

13. Kansas
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.19% (63,437)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (20,054)
> Total state population: 2,898,292 (17th lowest)

Source: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Suzanna Lapi

12. Hawaii
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.41% (34,051)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (10,958)
> Total state population: 1,413,673 (11th lowest)

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Source: Courtesy of Cherokees of Idaho

11. Idaho
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 2.52% (41,147)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (5,539)
> Total state population: 1,635,483 (12th lowest)

Source: Omegaforest / Getty Images

10. Washington
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 3.12% (220,427)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (28,241)
> Total state population: 7,073,146 (13th highest)

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Source: http://wikivisually.com/wiki/Wikipedia:Templates_with_red_links/U.S._Counties

9. Oregon
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 3.23% (128,631)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (21,872)
> Total state population: 3,982,267 (24th lowest)

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. Wyoming
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 3.78% (22,028)
> Largest Native American group: Arapaho (5,779)
> Total state population: 583,029 (the lowest)

Source: Wolfgang Staudt from Saarbruecken, Germany / Wikimedia Commons

7. Arizona
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 5.62% (377,995)
> Largest Native American group: Navajo (159,513)
> Total state population: 6,728,577 (15th highest)

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Source: woodysworld1778 / Flickr

6. North Dakota
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 6.61% (48,686)
> Largest Native American group: Chippewa (19,913)
> Total state population: 736,162 (3rd lowest)

Source: trialsanderrors / Flickr

5. Montana
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 8.33% (85,285)
> Largest Native American group: Blackfeet (14,095)
> Total state population: 1,023,391 (7th lowest)

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Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

4. South Dakota
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 10.31% (87,776)
> Largest Native American group: Sioux (72,513)
> Total state population: 851,058 (5th lowest)

Source: Luca Galuzzi (Lucag) / Wikimedia Commons

3. New Mexico
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 10.70% (222,818)
> Largest Native American group: Navajo (124,567)
> Total state population: 2,082,669 (15th lowest)

Source: Viktorcvetkovic / Getty Images

2. Oklahoma
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 13.97% (541,411)
> Largest Native American group: Cherokee (218,586)
> Total state population: 3,875,589 (23rd lowest)

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Source: umnak / Flickr

1. Alaska
> State residents who self-identify as American Indian: 20.15% (148,468)
> Largest Native American group: Yup’ik (38,980)
> Total state population: 736,855 (4th lowest)

Detailed Findings & Methodology

Today, Beck said that more than 70% of Native Americans live in urban areas. There is a heavy concentration of Native Americans living in Oklahoma now, primarily those who identify as Cherokee, in comparison with most other contiguous states. A lot of people who identify as Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole still live there today, as it was the endpoint of the Trail of Tears.

Members of those five groups were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands after the Indian Removal Act took place in 1830, which required all American Indians to move west of the Mississippi River either by foot or boat. The dreaded walk took the lives of 4,000 Cherokee members.

According to the Census, of the 5.6 million people who self-identify as having at least some Native American heritage, about 1.1 million people claim their ancestry is Cherokee. Next, over 374,000 people identify as Navajo.

One can self-identify as having a specific Native American heritage without being an active member of that tribe or nation. As Beck pointed out, there are even some people who know they have Native American roots but are not exactly sure from which tribe or nation.

“There is a much larger awareness of Cherokee people than there is of others,” said Beck. Small communities of Native Americans living in the West, primarily in Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, may only have knowledge of their roots through oral histories passed down from generation to generation, Beck explained.

“Oftentimes, it’s nothing more than stories. So there’s actually a lot of people who identify as Cherokee who may or may not have had a Cherokee ancestor, but who claim that,” said Beck.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed population data across the country using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 5-year American Community Survey to identify the states with the the largest share of the population who self-identify as Native American or report having Native American heritage without being an active member of that tribe or nation. The data is based on a survey that asked people to report their ancestry, not whether they are actively participating in that group. Someone who identifies as American Indian or Alaska Native is someone who has origins in any of the indigenous people of the Americas and who currently maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.

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