Special Report

States With the Most Indian Reservations and Tribal Areas

Until the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, indigenous people inhabited most of what is now the United States. During hundreds of years of sometimes bloody conflict, the native people were forcibly removed from their lands and placed in defined areas called reservations — where Native American populations are concentrated today. 

24/7 Wall St. reviewed U.S. Census Bureau data to identify the states with the most Indian reservations and tribal areas. 

While there are 326 federally recognized Indian reservations, there are nearly 700 tribal areas. For this reason, we did not limit our review to just reservations, but rather found the states with the most tribal areas. Lands inhabited by Native Americans and administered by the U.S. government as federal Indian reservations are called reservations, pueblos, rancherias, missions, villages, and communities. We also included on our list state designated tribal statistical areas (SDTSAs). These are statistical entities for state recognized American Indian tribes that do not have a state recognized land base. SDTSAs are identified for the Census Bureau by a designated state official.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs defines a federally identified tribe as an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal unit recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States. These tribal entities are eligible for funding and services from the BIA. There are about 2.6 million people who identify as American Indians. The state with the highest number of Native Americans is Arizona. Here are the states with the largest Native American populations

Federally recognized tribes have rights of self-government and are entitled to federal benefits, services, and protections because of their unique relationship with the United States. There are 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages that occupy about 56.2 million acres of reservations and tribal areas that are held in trust by the United States.  

Sixteen states have no federally recognized tribes, and most of those states are in the East and South. Even though Native Americans no longer inhabit most areas east of the Mississippi River, their legacy lives on in place and state names across the United States. Here are 50 places with Native American names

Click here to see the states with the most Indian reservations and tribal areas

To identify the states with the most Indian reservations, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 573 federally recognized tribes in each state from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Conference of State Legislatures, last updated in November 2018. Tribes whose land spans multiple states were counted for each of the states they are in. Tribes that are recognized on a state level but not a federal level were not considered. Data on the largest tribe in each state and the total population that identifies as “American Indian Alone” (which includes individuals who did not specify a tribe) came from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2017 5-Year Estimates.

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