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Missoula Measures - American Indians


Why this topic?

The largest minority population in Missoula County is American Indians: they are a very diverse mix, representing populations originating from Alaska to the Southwest. Their tribes are culturally distinct and sometimes have little in common with each other. Most Missoula Indians are from Montana tribes and many split their time between their reservation and Missoula.

There are roughly 2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the United States. Although their population is a minority, they are greatly over-represented in the child welfare system, suffer disproportionately from a variety of health problems and are among the poorest people in the United States.  They fare worse than the average Missoulian regarding income, education level, housing, and employment, and they have a higher than average rate of some chronic diseases associated with overweight, tobacco use and alcoholism.

American Indian people play a significant role in Montana and Missoula with two major reservations near by, and a long history in the area.


For most tribes, their remotely placed homes and communities frequently stifle viable economic activity: 

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: Native American Poverty, Tom Rogers - President of Carlyle Consulting of Alexandria, Virginia, a Blackfoot tribal member, previously a congressional staffer for Senator Max Baucus.


graph ratio of american indians to all races combined for poverty, high scool dropout and teen pregnancy

Spotlight on Poverty; National Center for Education Statistics;
CDC - Adolescent Reproductive Health.

Related data

graph US, Montana, Missoula Native Americans below poverty 2008 


Between 2006-2011, the average county poverty rate in Montana was 14.5%: 


Missoula County American Indian/Alaskan Native Population
US Census 1980 1990 2000 2010
Percentage 1.8 2.3 2.3 2.3
Numbers 1382 1799 2193 2872

Although the census found 2.2% of Missoula County population to be American Indian, or Alaskan Native, the Missoula Indian Center has estimated that 5–6% is more realistic. Many people move in and out of Missoula in the course of a year. (Between 1999 and 2009, 4% of students at the University of Montana were American Indian, for both undergraduate and graduate programs.)

Native American percent of the population, US Census, 2010:

US Census Bureau American Indian & Alaska Native Data & Links

The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. They are a combination of the Salish, the Pend d'Oreille and the Kootenai. Of the approximately 6,950 enrolled tribal members, about 4,500 live on or near the reservation. The reservation comprises over 1.2 million acres between Missoula and Kalispell.

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is home to the Blackfeet tribe. Of the approximately 14,000 enrolled tribal members, there are about 7,000 living on or near the reservation.  The Blackfeet Reservation is in northwestern Montana along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Its 1.5 million acres are bordered on the north by Canada and on the west by Glacier National Park.

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Health disparities



Native Americans CAUSE MT General Population
1 Cancer of all types 2
2 Heart disease 1
3 Unintentional Injuries 3
4 Diabetes 7
5 Stroke 4
6 Liver Disease 12
7 Suicide 11
8 Influenza/Pneumonia 8
9 Kidney Disease 9

National Vital Statistics Report and Montana Vital Statistics, 2006

Alcohol abuse in any population not only contributes to liver disease, but also contributes to high rates of motor vehicle crashes, suicide, homicide, domestic abuse, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The increase in obesity among all Americans, as well as Indians, has paralleled the increase in diabetes, which is 230% higher for Indians than for the general population. Obesity is also linked to high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and some types of cancer.

To be effective in meeting the needs of Indian populations, it is important to recognize and incorporate their traditions, culture, and values into community health care programs.

In 2008, about 84% of all Americans had health insurance coverage.  Only about 68% of Native Americans had health insurance.  That can probably be attributed to the higher rate of unemployment of Native Americans, especially those living on a reservation.

graph cancer incidence rate Montana, all races and Indians 2007-2011

Death rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Patterns of mortality are strongly influenced by the high incidence of diabetes, smoking prevalence, problem drinking, and health-harming social determinants. Many of the observed excess deaths can be addressed through evidence-based public health interventions.

American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). April 22, 2014

Social disparities

graph teen pregnancy rate, US, by ethnicity 2006 


graph US high school dropout rate by ethnicity 2008 

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