Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | Population

Largest Population of American Indians in the U.S.

Mexican American Indian Performers

Mexican American Indian performers. Photo by dlewisnash, courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Los Angeles County is home to the largest concentration of American Indians in the United States. The U.S. Census in 2016 estimated the Los Angeles County population of persons identifying as fully or partly American Indian to be 113,948. The same population in Maricopa County, Arizona, was estimated at 103,251, placing that county nationally in second place.

The largest tribal affiliation of Los Angeles County persons, was “Mexican American Indian,” estimated at 30,423. Many Hispanic or Latino persons are fully or partly descended from indigenous peoples of the Americas, which connect their racial origins to Native Americans.

In recent census counts, more Hispanic or Latino persons elected to identify their race as fully or partly American Indian. Recognizing this trend, the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015 added “Mexican American Indian,” “South American Indian” and “Spanish American Indian” to their list of tribal affiliations as part of 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 second largest American Indian tribal group in Los Angeles County is Cherokee, estimated to number 21,776.

Here we use the term American Indian, versus Native American, because this is used by the U.S. Census Bureau in reference 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 either 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 Alaskan 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.