Home > 8. The Dragons of Grammar, F. Politics & the Velvet Revolution > U.S. American Indians, Identity (and Language)

U.S. American Indians, Identity (and Language)

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If there is a vexed question in United States politics and history, it is how to identify American Indians. Because the U.S. Census collects self-reported information on racial identity, it is of doubtful use in determining the actual number of American Indians–people will avoid the problems of identifying as American Indian because of the second-class status that Indians have endured over the years. On the other hand, trying to create a scientific or legal definition involves highly subjective considerations–are you Indian if you had a pure-blood Indian grandparent? What about a pure-blood great-grandparent? And how should your blood-quantum be scientifically determined?

Worst of all, such data could be used to re-establish discriminatory laws based on race.

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With these provisos, RT offers the following figures on the American Indian population. In the 2010 Census:

1) 2.9 million people, or 0.9 percent of the total U.S. population, reported American Indian or Alaska Native alone.

2) 2.3 million people, or another 0.7 percent, reported American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races.

3) Together, these two groups totaled 5.2 million people. Thus, 1.7 percent of all people in the United States (308.7  million in the 2010 Census)  identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, either alone or in combination with one or more other races.

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RT thinks it’s safe to say: five million people ain’t nothing. But there are 566 federally recognized Indian Tribes in the United States and 68 state-recognized tribes. Further, as of 2012, 70% of American Indians live in urban areas, up from 45% in 1970 and 8% in 1940. The 2003 Census indicates that a little over 1/3 of Native Americans live in three states: California, Arizona, and Oklahoma.

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A plausible argument could be made that a true settling of American identity will only occur when the nation has come to terms with its Native Americans (And the Dragons of Grammar have indicated a certain interest in their languages and poetry :). Time heals all (and research helps, too). RT is currently at work on a post concerning the Navajo Reservation, the biggest in the country.

Finally, RT hopes that a discussion of the status of Native Americans will shed light on the larger political question of how member states or nations of federations can relate constructively to the federal union.

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Map: American Indian Reservations; U.S. Census Bureau. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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