Phoenix has the highest proportion of American Indians among the top 10 cities in the nation.
But increasing urbanization doesn’t necessarily mean Indians are losing touch with their ancestral homelands and cultures, a leading Indian academician said Tuesday.
A Census 2000 summary released today shows that the population of 35,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives within the city limits of Phoenix represents an Indian component of 2.7 percent. No count was available for other areas of the Valley.
In total population, Phoenix ranks sixth in the nation, with 1.3 million people.
Arizona retained its 1990 standing as the state with the third-largest Indian population, behind California and Oklahoma.
Urban Indians within the city limits of Phoenix and Tucson account for about 1 in 6 of the state’s 293,000 people who reported being fully or partially of Native American ancestry.
The figures came as no surprise to Cal Seciwa, a Zuni tribal member who is director of the American Indian Institute at Arizona State University.
“This is the continuation of a trend over 20 to 30 years as we have grown and been able to navigate the dominant society in areas such as education and employment,” Seciwa said.
By choice, many urban Indians have only partially assimilated, he said. They have learned trades and become professionals in urban areas but frequently visit their homelands, where city skills are in little demand, he said.
“Our loyalties and our hearts are back home, where we have family, religious and other cultural ties,” Seciwa said.
New York City and Los Angeles each had a higher number of Indians than Phoenix, but because of Phoenix’s smaller population, it had nearly twice the concentration of Indians as runner-up Los Angeles.
Indians accounted for 5 percent to 5.7 percent of the 5.1 million Arizonans counted in 2000, depending on whether Indians of mixed ancestry are included in the total.
About 256,000 Arizona residents said they are entirely Native American, but adding those who reported being multiracial brings the total to 293,000.
Nationwide, full-blooded Indians totaled 2.5 million, while an additional 1.6 million people said they were of mixed-Indian heritage.
The least-racially diluted Indian tribe was the Navajo, who live mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
Just under 10 percent of the 298,000 people listing themselves as Navajos reported being of mixed race.
Comparing the one-race Indian populations of 1990 and 2000, the racial group grew by 26 percent, twice the rate of the nation as a whole.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or (602) 444-4816.