Anishinaabe Geography in the 1930 Decennial Census—and the Use of this Geography in Studying the 1900-1940 Attributes of Anishinaabe People

a SSAI Working Paper

Arland Thornton, Alphonse Pitawanakwat, Eric Hemenway, Lindsey Willow Smith, Linda Young-DeMarco. “Anishinaabe Geography in the 1930 Decennial Census—and the Use of this Geography in Studying the 1900-1940 Attributes of Anishinaabe People” SSAI Working Paper 2022-01. May 2022.

This paper has two broad and interrelated goals: to investigate the geographical distribution of the Anishinaabe people in the U. S. in 1930 using the U.S. decennial census; and to create and evaluate a method for investigating the attributes of the Anishinaabe people in the U.S. using the 1900-1940 decennial censuses. There were many Anishinaabek living in Canada in 1930, but our use of the U.S. census data means that we cannot represent Canadian Anishinaabek in any way. We show that in 1930 there were Anishinaabek living in nearly half of the states of the U.S., but in most states the numbers of resident Anishinaabek were quite small, reaching 1000 people in only five states—Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. Another three states had 100 or more Anishinaabe residents in 1930—Kansas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. The great majority of Anishinaabek in the U.S. 1930 census were located in counties in the Great Lakes Region or west of the Great Lakes along or near the Canadian border. In the early 1900s the Anishinaabek in the U.S. also tended to be located together in counties primarily occupied by other Anishinaabek and with few people from other tribes. This makes it possible to use this geographical information to serve as a proxy for Anishinaabe tribal identification. We identified a substantial number of U. S. counties whose Native populations were primarily Anishinaabe or were located geographically close to such Anishinaabe counties and did not have any non-Anishinaabe Native residents reported. We propose that residence in one of these counties can be used as an indirect indicator that the Native people living there were indeed Anishinaabe and can be analyzed as such. By identifying such counties as primarily Anishinaabe counties, we can use residence in a county designated as Anishinaabe as a proxy for being Anishinaabe when direct tribal information is not available. Our empirical investigation of results using this approach suggests that these results are likely to be robust in producing quite reliable estimates for Anishinaabek in the U.S.

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