Percentage of Indigenous People in Each Territory, Province and State

Here's a map I created to display the answers to a simple question: What is the percentage of indigenous people who live in each territory, province and state of Canada and the United States? I had to get the statistics from kind of an amalgam of websites - Wikipedia, the U.S. Census, and others - and in some cases I am not exactly sure if I used an accurate figure (particularly for Nova Scotia). Regardless, the map still shows in a highly eye-catching way the relative influence that Native Hawaiians, Native Alaskans, First Nations people and American Indians have on the culture and society of U.S. and Canadian polities.

Below you can see six colors showing a very wide range of indigenous presences. This goes from the Canadian territory of Nunavut, where 84% of the population self-identifies as Inuit, to eastern American states like New Hampshire, where only 0.2% of the population identifies as Native American. (Click the map to enlarge it.)

Largely, this map reflects two of the fundamental histories of the United States and Canada: The first is the destruction and marginalization of indigenous Americans, resulting from epidemic disease, wars, forced removal and oppression. The second history is of foreign settlement, with Europeans, Africans, Asians and others all coming to the continent at many different times and in many different ways.

Of course, these two histories are greatly intertwined, and the numbers shown on the map do not reflect the number of indigenous people or the number of non-indigenous people within a particular space, but rather the balance between the two. California, for example, has the highest population of Native people in the United States, (just as it has the highest population in general), but its ratio of Natives to non-Natives is much lower than Alaska's, which is the highest in the country.

Even Alaska, however, does not have that high a percentage of indigenous people when compared to Canada's Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and above all Nunavut. However, with populations of about thirty thousand, forty thousand, and thirty thousand, respectively, these three northern Canadian territories have a combined population that is only about 15% of Alaska's population. (And I thought Alaska was a small place!) In terms of "percentage indigenous" statistics, the growth of the non-Native population is just as important as the growth of the Native population.

In any case, the colors you see on this map are simply results of history: They're not meant to make some states and provinces look better or worse than others. Although change will certainly be slow over time, these statistics will inevitably change, either in one direction or the other. Ultimately, what matters most is that indigenous histories are remembered everywhere in Canada and the United States, and that where they exist, Native cultures and peoples will persist, thrive, and grow in their vitality.