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US Census: Mexicans, United States’ Fourth Largest Tribal Group

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau titled “The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2010,” 175,494 Mexicans (Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano) self-identified their race as American Indian, making them the fourth largest tribal group in the United States.

Semillas Community Schools, who first posted the report on their Facebook page yesterday, shared this intriguing bit of information with the question: “Did you self-identify as indigenous?”

If you didn’t, but may have wanted to, you were not alone. The 2010 United States Census was marred by what many Mexicans considered to be a deliberately disorienting census form.

We shared several stories back in 2010 on Indigenous organizations helping people interested in identifying as American Indian and on some working for the U.S. Census Bureau encouraging Mexicans to identify as white.

175,494 out of 31 million Mexicans counted in the 2010 U.S. Census may not seem like much, but considering the confusing form, efforts by some to have Mexicans identify as European, not to mention the centuries of Catholic indoctrination, it’s actually a very 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 fact Mexican American Indians (term used by the U.S. Census) make up the forth largest tribal group in the United States is an even more powerful statement. It directly challenges Manifest Destiny, the white supremacist narrative used to justify Western expansion and the genocide of Native Peoples. The message is clear: This land is still Native.

This also has implications for the Government of Mexico. It says Indigenous identity amongst many Mexicans who emigrate to the United States is actually strengthened once they’re removed from the artificial construct of mestizaje that dictates racial classification in Mexico.

For some, Mexicans identifying as Native American is confusing, or even threatening. It shouldn’t be. It is, however, an opportunity for the Mexican community to continue building bridges with our Northern relatives and other Indigenous peoples from Central and South America. It’s also an opportunity for Mexicans who have little knowledge of their ancestry to begin researching their family’s background. 2020 is just around the corner!

Look for more information in the coming weeks on the ancestral territories and languages of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples.

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