Most of us were taught as young children that the first Thanksgiving was a shared autumn harvest feast between Wampanoag Indians and early colonists in 1621. Often, however, the suffering of the Indigenous population shortly after the feast, and for the several centuries since, is brushed aside.
Today, Native American culture is concentrated in many of the nation’s tribal areas, including reservations, tribal statistical areas, home lands, and off-reservation trust lands. According to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are 574 federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native tribes and villages across the country. The U.S. government has signed treaties with the tribes that ensure their sovereignty, and the U.S. is legally obligated to “protect tribal treaty rights, lands, assets, and resources,” per the BIA.
These treaties ensure that the U.S. maintains reservations — federal lands set aside as permanent tribal homelands.. These reservations sit on more than 56 million acres of U.S. land held in trust by the government. These lands are home to nearly 5.5 million Native American people, though the vast majority are located in just a handful of states.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to identify the states with the most Indian reservations and tribal areas. These lands include reservations, off-reservation trust land, state designated tribal statistical areas, Alaska native village statistical area, and more.
The vast majority of reservations and tribal areas are located in the Southern and Western parts of the country. This is largely due to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when all tribes in the Eastern U.S. were forcibly relocated to areas west of the Mississippi River. To this day, a large share of the population in many of these Southern and Western states still have Native American ancestry. These are the states with the largest Native American populations.
About half of all U.S. states get their names from a Native American words or phrases used to describe the area before the arrival of Europeans. These are all the states with a Native American name.