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Largest Population of American Indians in the U.S.

Mexican American Indian Performers

Mexican American Indian performers. Photo by dlewisnash at Pixabay.com.

Los Angeles County is home to the largest concentration in the United States of persons who identify racially solely as American Indian or Alaska Native. The U.S. Census estimated that, in 2022, this population numbered 111,096 in Los Angeles County. The same population in Maricopa County, Arizona, was estimated at 83,296, placing that county in second place.

The largest American Indian tribal affiliation in Los Angeles County, was “Mexican American Indian,” estimated at 42,891. Many Hispanic or Latino persons are indigenous peoples of the Americas, connecting their racial origins to Native Americans. In recent years, Census surveys found an increased percentage of Hispanic or Latino persons identifying their race as American Indian. Recognizing this trend, Census added, in 2015, “Mexican American Indian,” “South American Indian” and “Spanish American Indian” to their list of tribal affiliations under the American Indian racial category. This has resulted in Mexican American Indians now identified as the sixth largest American Indian tribal population in the United States (and largest in Los Angeles County).

The next largest Census-identified American Indian tribal affiliations in Los Angeles County were Central American Indian, numbered at 18,444, Navajo at 2,505, Apache at 2,262, and Cherokee at 2,197.

Here we use the term American Indian, versus Native American, because the U.S. Census Bureau uses this to refer to most indigenous people of the Americas. According to a 1995 Census Bureau study, 50% of people identifying themselves as indigenous preferred the term American Indian, 37% preferred Native American, and the remainder preferred other terms or had no preference. The Census Bureau uses American Indian to include indigenous people of all the Americas (North and South America and the Carribbean) who are not Alaska Native or Hawaiian. In addition, the two indigenous people groups native to Los Angeles County, the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe (San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians) and Kizh Nation (Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians) both use the term Indian.