4th Largest Tribe in US? Mexicans Who Call Themselves American Indian


A January 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau—“The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2010”—says that 175,494 Mexicans (Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano) self-identified as American Indian, making them the fourth largest tribal group in the country, says Think Mexican.

The group also pointed out on its tumblr page that the 2010 United States Census form was “deliberately disorienting” and that some Census workers were encouraging Mexicans to identify as white.

They refer specifically to question No. 9 on the form, which asks to which race residents of a home belong. The choices included: White, Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, various Asian descents, Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, and “some other race.”

“It was confusing. I came to that question, and I just stopped. I didn’t know what to put,” Jessica Valenzuela, a schoolteacher from Avondale, told The Arizona Republic in 2010. “Obviously, I’m not White. I would consider myself Hispanic or Mexican-American, but definitely not White. The form doesn’t really leave you with another option, though.”

Think Mexican says that while 175,494 out of 31 million Mexicans in 2010 may not seem like that much, but despite of the confusing form and centuries of Catholic indoctrination, it’s a “powerful statement.”

“It says that indigenous identity amongst many Mexicans is strong, and although this group is numerically relatively small, it represents a much larger group with a similar heritage,” the group says.

They also say Mexicans making up the fourth largest tribal group directly challenges Manifest Destiny by saying: “This land is still Native.”

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hesutu's picture
Submitted by hesutu on
The Nahuatl, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Otomi, Totonac, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Mazahua, Mazateco, Huastec, Ch'oi, Chinantec, Purépecha, Mixe, Tlapanec, and Tarahumara are all indian peoples of Mexico with more than 100,000 members. The Mayo, Zoque, Chontal Maya, Populuca, Chatino, Amuzgo, Tojolabal, Huichol, Tepehuan, Triqui, Ppoploca, Cora, Mame, Yaqui, Cuicateco, and Huave are all indian peoples of Mexico with less than 100,000, but more than 20,000 members. The Tepehua, Kanjobal, Oaxacan Chontal, Pame, Chichimeca Jonaz, Guarijio, Chuj, Chocho, Tactuate, Ocuiltec, Pima Bajo, Jacaltec, Kekchi Lacandan Ixcatec, Seri, K'iche', Motochintleco, Kaqchikel, Paipai, Tohono O'odam, Cucapá, Kumiai, Kikapú, Chochimi, Ixil, Kiliwa and Aguacatec are all indian peoples of Mexico with less than 20,000 members. This is not counting the many other indian peoples south of Mexico! One nation of interest is the Coahuila Kikapú, an Algonquian-speaking tribe which was pushed out of their lands near Wisconsin down to Mexico by the illegal colonialist occupiers of indigenous lands. Now if a Kikapú visits their own land, the illegal colonialist occupiers of indigenous lands have the audacity to call the Kikapú "illegal aliens". This is the opposite of the facts though. Kikapú of Coahuila also are notable for having developed a whistling language as the Canary islanders and a few other cultures notably did. Another nation of interest is the Tohono O'odam whose lands have been split by the unauthorized, illegal, and abominable structure which the nation-state calling itself the United States refers to as the "Fence" or "Border". This monstrosity and which was erected right through their lands, preventing many members of the tribe from being able to freely travel on their own lands in order to visit family and participate in ceremony. This is an abomination by the true illegal alien invaders and criminals who daily oppress us, in violation of international standards, law, and common decency. On the northern side of this "fence" the Tohono O'odam's "reservation" comprises 4,454 square miles, making it the third largest reservation in the nation state calling itself the United States, so they are hardly obscure.

sweetgrass777's picture
Submitted by sweetgrass777 on
Most Mexicans Genetically and culturally are Native. You forgot the Muscogos who are decendants of the Black Seminoles and Indigenous Mexicans who also reside in or near Coahuila. I don't know why they would be considered anything else. The spanish in spain do not consider them true Spanish as they do most of the people from "Latin America". If a Puerto Rican and claim Native Ancestry and form a tribe called "Taino" then recognition of true Native people like the Mexicans are long overdue. They are Bonafide and are of our people.

nonfedindian's picture
Submitted by nonfedindian on
The group "Think Mexican" must have missed Census question 5 that asked if the person was Hispanic or non-Hispanic. Question 6 then asks what race for which the individual. Hard to see the confusion though there apparently was quite a bit as evidenced by a simple Google search. I have an idea - quit asking about race. It is all self-ID and any data gleaned is automatically suspect because people will put what they want or think without it necessarily being true. Even this article stating that Mexicans are the 4th largest tribe is bogus. What tribe - the Mexican tribe? Since when do even Indians consider a mere grouping of race to be a tribe without any organization, social connection, etc.? And are the writers comparing this number with other known US tribes? I just wonder because the Census only asks if Native American and not the particular tribe. I further wonder if someone were to research and determine the number of known tribal members throughout the US (and go ahead and include fed recognized and non-fed recognized), how that number would compare with those who self-identify as being Native.

Laura Gonzalez
Laura Gonzalez
Submitted by Laura Gonzalez on
I've always marked "white," and never really thought about it. However, last year someone brought up the topic that most Mexicans are probably more indigenous than Spanish, so why do we mark "white"? I haven't decided to change my status, but I'm seriously thinking about it. Also, my ex husband is from the Yucatan and speaks Yucatec Mayan, and his maternal last name is Mayan, but I'll bet he marks "white." It's that colonized mentality.

Adawehi's picture
Submitted by Adawehi on
This is a GREAT post! Here in Texas this is a huge issue. Many unknowingly enter into contracts that support the continuing genocide of our people. Many times it is our own people who are so greedy to make money that they hide the truth , bully, fear of death, fear of the U.S. government to get Natives to put on paper that they are Latino or Hispanic White to get a green card or work visa. When the reality is that Treaty Laws protect Native people from this kind of harassment. Many of these Treaties are from a time that has what is now days Mexico in them, and they are signed by Mexico and the U.S. It is a crying shame to see these effects of continued genocide in our people. And if I understand this census report that no where does is state that anyone is required to be a card holding native. This is all of us together that filled out the census. You see many many UNDOCUMENTED people are Natives that are not even counted, and many many are deported back to Mexico and are never counted, many many ar still in hiding right in plain sight that have never even filled out any census. What I have heard on the street is that people are being told that if they are Mexican then they are Latino and Hispanic based on the language they speek, not by the color of their skin .... that is why so many Mexicans try to speek spanish to someone who knows they are Native and does not speek spanish. It's Very common happenings in Texas. Many Mexicans recognize their Native people yet somehow have failed in recognizing that they too are Native. You see in Texas over 40% say they are latino, hispanic whn actualy they are native which would bring the Actual Native population to more than half of this states total population. And thats only counting those that want to be counted. I am glad to see more card holding natives confronting this issue and reaching out to help the millions who don't and can't get an ndn card. Please keep posting on this issue becaus I heard BIll Maur say that Texas government is afraid of the reverse conquistador inquistion happening in Texas ....AKA flipping Texas back to NDN country over night.

texasouthwind's picture
Submitted by texasouthwind on

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
My father's family was Ndee and my mother's family Mexican. People in the SW typically moved indiscriminately between the two countries for various reasons and the furor over illegal immigration has brought up new issues for xenophobes to consider. Conservative's plan to categorize Native people into groups in order to demonize some of them is backfiring. They need their red herring to keep their voter base angry. They hate "illegal immigrants" which is really a euphemism for "Mexicans" as they clearly are NOT worried about illegal Canadian immigrants or illegal Vietnamese immigrants. I was recently stopped on my daily walk by a Border Patrolman who questioned my citizenship. I proved my residency, then told the officer that my family lived in this area when HIS family had yet to invade North America from whatever country he hailed from. He got hot under the collar, but shut up when I told him I was a disabled veteran. Citizens in an alledgedlly free country should not be treated this way. Sometimes they have this image (it's usally referred to as a "stereotype" by people who are NOT ignorant) of what constitutes an "illegal alien" and it generally has to do with dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. How many of us fit that description?. Mexico IS still part of North America and as much as it pains them, Americans will have to understand that the people of North America have moved about freely since BEFORE the U.S. stole all the land.

sweetgrass777's picture
Submitted by sweetgrass777 on
@texassouthwind: Most Mexicans are not Spaniards or Spanish. They only speak the language. In Spain the would disown them. They only adapted the culure but the majority are not distinct from Navajo, Dine, or many other tribes here. The Native Mexican Indians where "enculturated" by the Spanish. If you put the Average Mexican in Spain he would stand out like a sore thumb. Many feel ashamed of their Indian heritage when it is very obvious. Many claim an ancestor came from Spain but they could not take a flight to Madrid and say hey cuz. Come on they are so far removed.

F.SOTO's picture
Submitted by F.SOTO on
@texassouthwind, you mean since when did the US become part of MEXICO? when the europeans STOLE IT just like they did the rest of the U.S. You forget, WHO was here first BEFORE the spanish and european invasion?

Willis Linn's picture
Willis Linn
Submitted by Willis Linn on
It is crazy when people think and try to convince you that Mexicans Spanish White people, it's just another way of stealing the Birthrights of a Native people. Sadly many Mexicans and South American Natives have forgotten who they really are-The largest group of peoples in the Americas

Arther J. Gomez's picture
Arther J. Gomez
Submitted by Arther J. Gomez on
I'm mexican and white. I still self Identify with both and as American Indian. We all know where we come from. The census really needs a change in definition. Everytime I apply for a job I get the same idea that I have to put down Mexican because if I put down any other group they're going to look at it and think, well this guy can't be hispanic or latino at all.

Jorge Baracutay Estevez's picture
Jorge Baracutay...
Submitted by Jorge Baracutay... on
Some Facts: Caribbean people were the fist to b called Indians. 1)We never stopped calling ourslves Indian. 2)The same peolple who gave us thi racial designation took it away from us to further disenfranchise the people. 3)Mny people still believe there are no Indians south of th border (sad really but this is not fact,, it is politics. Please visit where you will find the most current research on Caribbeabn Indigeneity by the Smithsonian National Museum of th American Indian.

jae's picture
Submitted by jae on
some people tend to forget. the indigenious people of texas,new mexico,arizona,nevada and northern mexico and towards the south along the rio grande in texas and mexico. were all indigenious related some how, when the spanish came. so to exclude mexicans because of a river boundary or a fence is being blind to history. when these states were once mexico were there not indigenious people in the mexican army from these particular states. i know so. i am native american mexican. jornada mogollon, mimbres, suma, casa grandes, manso. just to name some who could be related with different dialects but same language

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
It's about sovereignty. Yes, some Mexicans are native, but to Mexico, not the U.S., I find it kind of ironic that people come to the U.S. and claim they are native Mexicans but do nothing to help the actual natives in Mexico gain their sovereignty. Many U.S. Natives died fighting for sovereignty so they can have free tribal elections, tribal government, and their own economics. Just because someone is brown, it does not mean they are native. Many black people migrated into Mexico to escape slavery. Some of these people are brown now, because they inter-mixed with Spaniards and the original Mexicans. If these so-called 'Native Mexicans' were prideful, they would fight for sovereignty for the natives of Mexico. Just because you are native, does not give you the right to go to lands of other native peoples and say that you belong there. The first nations peoples went through their own struggle for sovereignty with the crown. the U.S. natives went through their own fight for sovereignty, and instead of so-called natives coming here into other native nation's lands, they should fight for their own sovereignty. This whole, "we are one people" new age native talk is bogus, because each tribe has their own culture, stories, language, and sovereignty. There is not "universal native truth". Maybe on the surveys they should have a "Mexican" option, then this confusion would go away.

Aye Valeria Morales
Aye Valeria Morales
Submitted by Aye Valeria Morales on
It makes me sad to hear that some believe that there are no "Universal Truths" among or between Native Traditions. I am a Tejana/Xicana and a native of this country. My family history is much more complex than the lines that divide our nation and our people. I only have, due to my Eurocentric upbringing, knowledge of one great-grandfather. He was a tall German/Jew who settled in the mountains of Mexico and married an Indigenous woman. My paternal grandparents were orphaned, but have strong native American features. My grandmother would tell us she was Apache so as to distinguish her self from Mexicanos. She and my grandfather have striking Native American features, but no 'papers' to back it up. I think it's tragic. They lost their heritage due to a system that has beat it out of them and they have no Tribes to welcome them home. They and we face hostility on both sides. It has in essence separated us from ourselves, to believe that one experience has superiority over another. My heritage and Nativeness can not be measured in my blood. It is in my DNA In my breath and experience. Cultural Genocide can not take what my soul contains.

villanova's picture
Submitted by villanova on
well, it seems the native ndn tribes were always fighting, killing, genociding, other tribes since time immemorial., e.g., the Lakota took advantage over the Pawnee once they had horses. Always competing for land and resources among tribes from other areas. I guess it just turns out that as the world became advanced enough, the larger world became involved, and come what may in that same vein. Looking forward however, most of us want to live and be well., and there are more people living now than ever before, by a large margin, even those with any type of ndn ancestry.The movement and evolution of the human race is comparable to the weather, a very chaotic system, but ending up doing whatever happens, always depending on the current conditions, but only predictable for a very short time.

Sam Harris
Sam Harris
Submitted by Sam Harris on
Who ever said that Mexicans are not Natives don't know much of anything. All of our Ancestors came the same way! Do the research! In fact it's believed my tribe are related to the Inca because the language of my tribe isn't related to any other on the North American continent! That means we went down and eventually came back up again and settled in Mexico. There is with out a doubt that I am Native as I even did a DNA test to prove it! I have a large percentage with is something I did not expect. All of our ancestors have been here for 20,000 years and still here! By the way many Mexican Natives are moving to the united states to avoid the poverty levels in Mexico. People really need to do more research instead of just talking!

What Mexican is.'s picture
What Mexican is.
Submitted by What Mexican is. on
You got it all wrong! MEXICAN IS NOT A RACE. It is a nationality. You can be of Chinese, Lebanese, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc., etc., ancestry, and be Mexican. If you are born in Mexico, or become a naturalized Mexican citizen, you are Mexican. My family is white, probably Spanish. I am 100% Mexican. I assure you, when I visit Spain, I do not stick out like a sore thumb. When I grew up in Mexico, I had classmates that were Italian, Japanese, middle easterners, Chinese, etc., but they all were, first of all, Mexican. Visit Mexicali and you will see many Mexicans of Chinese ancestry. Visit Valle de Guadalupe, and you will see many Mexicans of Russian ancestry. You can have a family whose members are born, say, in Yucatan-they are Mexican. Other family members are born in Guatemala-They are Guatemalans. There are many, many, white Mexicans. Just look at who is running the country. Most of the Mexicans who move to the United States are of Mesoamerica ancestry, because they are the poorest. People who are born in the United States, no matter what their ancestry, are NOT Mexican. I dare all those who claim to be Mexican to write down the first 11 words of the Mexican National Anthem. Furthermore, I dare them just to whistle the Mexican National Anthem. Now, if you want to be a Mesoamerica native, I urge you to do the following things: 1) Renounce your belief in Jesus Christ; 2) Renounce your belief in the Virgin of Guadalupe; 3) Renounce your Spanish name; 4) If you are able to speak Spanish, stop it!; 5) Stop using anything that has wheels on it (no more low-riding). These were all gifts given to you by the Spanish. Throw in some human sacrifices and a bit of cannibalism. Now you are back! Furthermore, you should be thankful that 450 Spaniards conquered Mexico. Europeans would have overrun America. It was inevitable. Spaniards allowed you to survive. If the Northern Europeans had conquered Mexico, they would have killed most of you, as they did in North America.

Mojaverat's picture
Submitted by Mojaverat on
@ What Mexican is. Being Mexican is not just a nationality it is also a culture. So what you know the Mexican National anthem, I was born in the US and I don't know the national anthem here. I am mestizo, I cherish my mixed blooded heritage. And all you White Mexicans are just sucking the life blood out of the Motherland with your worthless corrupted PRI party. But I should not say that, its wrong to judge an entire group like that. There have been a lot of good White Mexicans; Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo, all the homeboys from the San Patricio battalion, and Sor Juana Ines Dela Cruz to name a few. So what I was born in the US, I am a proud Mexican American from California. I know my history and my culture, I feel it in my heart and soul.

cihuahuac's picture
Submitted by cihuahuac on
I believe in the US, if you can prove atleast 25% native by showing birth certificates or other records of your parents and grandparents and great grandparents THEN you can be part of a tribe. For some tribes this could be one way to become a member, I know it varies from tribe to tribe. If the white settlers in Mexico started to allow tribal sovereignty in Mexico (that would be so AWESOOMMMEEEE!) and lets assume 40% of Mexican nationals are Native Mexicans that would be 48 million natives. I've read that as high as 80% of Mexican nationals are atleast 25% native. 80% of Mexicans is 97 million. If we assume that 80% of Mexican-Americans(31 million) would also qualify to be in a tribe, then we'd have 24 million more natives in the US. And If only 175K Mexican-Americans claimed to be american-indian/native then 99.2% of them are still colonized. If we assume that 40% of Mexican-Americans(31 million) would also qualify to be in a tribe, then we'd have 12 million more natives in the US. And If only 175K Mexican-Americans claimed to be american-indian/native then 98.5% of them are still colonized. Now matter how you look at it, so many Mexican-Americans are colonized. Help decolonize! I'm no expert, these are not facts, do your own research.

Riverwolf's picture
Submitted by Riverwolf on
Identity is a complicated situation because it comprises many things such as perception, history, family history, genetics and environment. The biggest problems i see is the failure to see that the U.S. has a long history of writing their own rules - creating their own social constructs. Read Howard Zinn's history of the U.S. for some examples. The sad part is how many U.S. Native Americans take part in the white man's Eurocentric game. The first being that every Native American, in order to be considered Native American must have tribal ID. Isn't it strange that the Indians adopted this form of categorization and numerical inventory - it is like the human version of when ranchers keep a tally on their cattle. Now Im not saying that having tribal ID doesnt come with a sense of pride or validity but the question I ask is who started this tribal ID in the first place? Why would Indians do that to themselves. It's obviously to keep their land. But the game is a two fold game. What happens when the last person of a particular tribe dies or their percentage of genetic makeup drops below "federal recognition" and they become just like every body else? If this hypothetical tribe drops below a certain percentage and say they occupy X amount of acres, what happens to the land? Who does it go to? I bet the U.S. govt get is. So it sounds like a waiting game, sooner or later as more and more Natives marry outside their circle the blood will become diluted and their numbers will drop. That is one huge disadvantage to this social construct of the federal recognition. Seondly, if the tribes of Mexico aren't recognized by the U.S. - then why in the hell when you look into the language do you see federally recognized tribes such as the Shoshone and Utes belonging to the Uto-Aztecan language. Im pretty sure Aztecan comes from Mexico. Not to mention that Mexico, historically spanned all the way up to UT, WY, CO, CA, NV, NM, TX, AZ and so on. Google Map of the U.S circa 1600s. Lastly, if the U.S. started to federally recognize Mexicans and Native Americans I think this would lead to a huge debate about the borders and who indeed is actually occupying the U.S. Illegally. The truth is a simple genetic test can prove Native American ancestry and If percentage counts I doubt that most of the whites in America can hold a candle to the percentage of Native American blood running through the veins of Mexicans. So give unto Caesar's what is Caesars and I say let the white govt. have it's made up laws and social constructs - it plays a cruel game and I doubt many will fare well.

Degree01's picture
Submitted by Degree01 on
Hello, I just got a DNA done through Ancestry DNA and results were that i was 44% Native American so it sounds like I am what i looked like after all LOL this is so cool to know that this is actually were my Ancestors came from, i really would like to know what kind of Indian I am like either Aztec, Mayan or even North American Indian.