American Indians without tribes in the twenty-first century

Carolyn A. Liebler, Meghan Zacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Among American Indians and Alaska Natives, most aspects of ethnicity are tightly associated with the person's tribal origins. Language, history, foods, land and traditions differ among the hundreds of tribes indigenous to the USA. With this in mind, we ask why almost one million American Indians failed to respond to the tribal affiliation part of the Census 2000 race question. We investigate four hypotheses about why one-third of multiracial American Indians and one-sixth of single-race American Indians did not write any response to the tribal affiliation question: (1) survey item non-response that undermines all fill-in-the-blank questions; (2) a non-salient tribal identity; (3) a genealogy-based affiliation; and (4) a mestizo identity, which does not require a tribe. We use multivariate logistic regression models and high-density restricted-use Census 2000 data. We find support for the first two hypotheses and note that predictors differ substantially for single-race versus multiple-race American Indians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1910-1934
Number of pages25
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted in the Minnesota Research Data Center, which receives funding from the National Science Foundation (SES-0851417). We also gratefully acknowledge support from the Minnesota Population Center, which is funded by a center grant from the National Institutes of Health (R24-HD041023).


  • American Indian
  • Census Research Data Center
  • US census
  • ethnic identity
  • tribe


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