URBAN INDIAN by DefinitionUrban Indians are Native Americans in the United States who live in urban areas. Urban Indians represent a growing proportion of the Native population in the United States.

Posted by Turtlegang.nyc Urbanindiannyc on Friday, September 15, 2017


Urban Indian by Definition

With urban Indians representing a growing proportion
of the Native population in the United
States, the definition of a Native person (urban or nonurban)
has grown in significance. Some federal laws
require that a person have a certain level of Indian
blood to receive federally-funded services.
Where blood quantum is not specifically used, Native descent
and membership of a federally recognized tribe is a
common definition. The federal government’s reliance
on blood quantum as the defining factor of Indian
identity is frequently rejected by urban Indians, particularly
due to the fact that loosened tribal affiliation
and intermarriage is a direct result of deliberate federal
policy (outlined below). According to researcher
Susan Lobo, additional criterion used to define urban
Indian identity include:
• Ancestry: Does a person have Indian relatives and
ancestors, and function as a member of an Indian
extended family?
• Appearance: Does a person look “Indian”?
• Cultural knowledge: Is the person knowledgeable
of the culture of their People and of those panIndian
values and social expectations shared within
the urban Indian community?
• Indian community participation: Does the person
“come out” for Indian events and activities in the
Indian community and contribute to the community
Native people who do not reside on their reservation
or territorial land have many different residential
and cultural experiences. Adequately describing those
diverse experiences can prove difficult. This fact is
partially explained by the fact that “‘urban’ is not a kind
of Indian. It is an experience, one that most Indian
people today have had.”

One way to capture these diverse experiences is to
consider the reasons that Indians live in cities and the
length of time they have done so, as suggested by the
following four categories of urban Indians:
• Long term residents: Sometimes residents in cities
for several generations, this category includes the
Native people who traditionally owned the land on
which the urban center is based.
• Forced residents: Those forced to relocate to urban
centers by government policy or the need to access
specialized health or other services.
• Permanent residents: Those who have permanently
relocated from other areas in search of
different or better opportunities.
• Medium and short term visitors: Those who may
visit for specific purposes but do not intend to stay
permanently (as in visits to family, relocation to
pursue higher education, etc.)
These categories raise the question of which factor/s
most distinguish the urban experience from the
non-urban. What combination of length of time, reason
for residence, and other factors, is most distinctive?