Census: Native American Count Jumps by 27 Percent

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 America's Native population climbed by nearly a third between 2000 and 2010, surprising U.S. Census Bureau data analysts and delighting managers of federally funded programs whose budgets depend on official head counts.

"I think the numbers surprised us all," said Tina Norris, an analyst with the Census's Racial Studies Branch who authored a brief that was presented to the press Wednesday.

The American Indian and Alaska Native population increased by 26.7 percent in the last decade, compared to 9.7 percent for Americans as a whole.

This means Natives are now a slightly larger minority, comprising 1.7 percent of the population versus 1.5 in 2000.

There were 5.2 million American Indians in the county in 2010, compared to 4.1 million in 2000.

Navajos may be interested to hear that, for the first time, their full-blooded population surpassed that of Cherokees - 286,000 versus 284,000. (When mixed-race people are counted, however, the Cherokees are still far and away the largest tribe, with 819,000 souls versus 332,000 Navajos.)

Most of the 1.1 million increase in Native Americans - 645,000 - was attributable to mixed-race Natives. As a percentage of America's population, full-blooded Natives stayed the same at just under 1 percent.

With 44 percent of Natives mixed with another race, American Indians claim the second-highest proportion of mixed-blood people in America (Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the first).

Most Natives (78 percent) live outside of their reservations, with full-blooded Indians more likely to live on their reservations than mixed-bloods.

Diné;, however, were far more likely to live on their reservation, with only 44,398 Navajos (13 percent) living off the Navajo Nation.

Navajos also had the largest percentage of full-bloods, 86.3 percent.

The Eastern seaboard, east Texas and Florida boasted the biggest increases in the percent of Native Americans, while the already Native-heavy Four Corners remained relatively flat.