Populations of American Indian tribes

I was wondering about the relative sizes of the various groups of aboriginal North Americans. I’ve known a few people who have some Cherokee Indian blood, but none that have blood from any other tribe. Which makes me wonder if the Cherokees interbred more, or if they simply numbered more, or if I’ve just run into an anomolously large number of Cherokee octaroons.

Anyway, the basic question is, what were the most populous tribes north of Rio Grande? I specify north of the Rio Grande because IIRC the land was much more heavily populated to the south.

Websites or just plain info would be appreciated.

Any similarity in the above text to an English word or phrase is purely coincidental.

I can only give you recent numbers: 40,000 tribe members west of the Mississippi and only 3,000 east of the big muddy (where they originally lived before being decimated by smallpox and war and moved by the gov. to Oklahoma)

I think a lot of people who suspect that they have mixed blood and can trace some relatives to Oklahoma, like to assume that they are desended from the Cherokee even though they were only a fraction of the total number of Native Americans to suffer relocation.

Sooners with the strongest claim to Cherokee blood are those that come from northern OK. If you extend the panhandle east, across the top of the state, to the Missouri border, you have what was once known as the Cherokee Strip.

Some more numbers for you:

900,000 Native Americans north of the Rio Grande before the incursion of the white man.

800,000 in the USA today. If you add those in Canada you probaly have about one million north of the Rio Grande.

That means that the Cherokee represent less than 5% of the total.

This is great question and I’ve been trying to find an answer off and on since you posted it. But now that I’m reading what keeps coming up is why did they keep moving?

I’ve seen the drawings of the two glaciers in northwestern America and the possible, well, really wide - path between. I’m still looking but if you run across anything that hints at why they just couldn’t stay put…

My great-great grandmother was Cherokee, and I’ve often wondered why she married outside her tribe. My favorite romantic theory is to have planted “time-bombs”. It does seem that the Cherokee intermarried more, both with Europeans & Africans, even before the Trail Of Tears forced migration. A powerful Cherokee leader during the times when negotiation with the European migrants was attempted was half Cherokee, half Scottish, which would indicate an acceptance not based on race.

I’ll go look up more details, on this and the adjoining question.

This site gives current populations, although in keeping with apparent Bureau of Indian Affairs Policy, it is practically indecipherable: http://www.doi.gov/bia/ifcons95.html

As for aboriginal population, dickshovel (yes, I know…) says:

European epidemics introduced into the southeastern United States in 1540 by the Desoto expedition are estimated to have killed at least 75% of the original native population. How much the Cherokee suffered from this disaster in unknown, but their population in 1674 was about 50,000. A series of smallpox epidemics (1729, 1738, and 1753) cut this in half, and it remained fairly stable at about 25,000 until their removal to Oklahoma during the 1830s. The American Civil War was the next disaster and cost the Cherokee 25% of their population. No other group of Americans, red or white, suffered as severely during this conflict. The 1990 census listed 308,132 persons (15,000 full-blood) who identified themselves as Cherokee. Of these, 95,435 were concentrated in eastern Oklahoma while 10,114 eastern Cherokee lived on or near the North Carolina reservation. Cherokee tribal governments have fairly liberal membership standards, and some estimates exceed 370,000, which would make the Cherokee the largest Native American group in the United States.

The cite is http://www.dickshovel.com/Cherokee1.html . This is one of the finest clearinghouses of Native American history, despite its odd name.

Incidentally, most tribes appear to have encouraged pairing outside of their own groups. Meddling by the Colonists and the United States further encouraged this by concentrating tribes on the same or adjacent reservations throughout the 1800s, eventually culminating in the “Indian Territory” that became Oklahoma. I suppose it is possible that many Cherokees are actually of primarily other origin, as the abovementioned article suggests.

(As a bitter aside, I once heard a Tribal Chairman comment: “the reason why there are so many Cherokees is because they’re the ones John Wayne liked to kill least.” I reserve comment.)

The Eastern and Western Cherokees were also the subject of fairly detailed censuses by the Federal Government. People wishing to claim Cherokee heritage usually have to be able to prove a relationship to someone listed on those two censes (known as the Dawes Rolls and the Guion Miller Rolls).

These censuses have been indexed and people can fairly easily find a particular person. Other tribes had censuses done, but only on reservations and they have no indexes, so it is a bit difficult to track someone down in one of them.

A library with a big genealogy collection, a Mormon Family History Library, or a branch of the National Archives would have such information.