Natives Elected to US Congressional Office

By René Dario Herrera

The percentage of the US population, age 18 and over, that are American Indian and Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander has increased by over 102% from 2000 to 2020. Has an increase in congressional representation followed this increase in population?

Native Americans Elected to Congressional Office

I recently became curious to know what the landscape looks like for Native political representation. I’m fortunate to live in a part of the United States where I share a community with Natives. Likewise, I don’t identify as Native (some of my ancestors were indigenous to the area we now call Mexico), but I appreciate that there seems to be a greater awareness of the Native experience in the United States.

This led me to investigate a bit further. I wanted to know if political representation matches the changing demographics of the United States. With the help of R (2024), I summarized US Census Data to learn that the Native population age 18 years and over has increased from 1.43% in 2000 to 2.89% in 2020 (Table 1). However, the Native American population is not uniformly distributed across the geopolitical landscape. There are some geographic areas where Native Americans make up more than 5% of the population. Those are the areas I decided to zoom in on.

If we look only at congressional districts where the voting-age Native population is 5% or greater, then we do see an increase in Natives elected to Congress (Table 2.). Where only two Native Americans were elected to Congress in 2012, five were elected in 2020. It’s small, but it seems that as the composition of the population changes, Congressional representation is also changing (Diaz 2022).

Of course, this does not take into account the full picture. Voting power is influenced by more than just age. Further exploration of this topic will require me to look more at actual voter participation and demographics. Yet, I look forward to seeing more Native representation in Congress and across the federal and local political spectrum.


Table 1: Annual percentage of the population 18 years of age and older that are American Indian and Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. (Data source: US Decennial Census).

US Census Percent of Total (%)
2000 1.43
2010 1.67
2020 2.89

Table 2: Recent election results for US congressional districts where the Native population 18 years of age and over is 5% or greater (Data source: MIT Election Data and Science Lab).

Year Native Elected Total Congressional Districts
2012 2 17
2014 2 17
2016 2 17
2018 3 17
2020 5 17
2022 3 26
Total 17 111

Check My Work


  • Diaz, Jaclyn. 2022. “U.S. Congress Reaches a Milestone in Indigenous Representation.” NPR, September 20, 2022, sec. Politics.
  • MIT Election Data and Science Lab, 2017, “U.S. House 1976–2022”,, Harvard Dataverse, V13, UNF:6:Ky5FkettbvohjTSN/IVldA== [fileUNF]
  • US Decennial Census.
  • R Core Team (2024). R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.