Urban Indians are individuals of American Indian ancestry who reside in cities and urban areas. Urban Indians are not organized by tribal governments, or tribal affiliation. They are diverse in cultural experience, identity, and heritage, yet joined together by race and location.
The American Indian population in California is unique and diverse. California has one of the largest populations of American Indians in the United States and is home to 627,562 American Indians of sole and mixed race (2000 U.S. Census). There are 109 federally recognized tribes in California, with an additional 75 petitioning for federal recognition. Unlike American Indian populations in other states, American Indians in California are not linked by a dominant tribal affiliation, nor are they concentrated on reservations. In fact, nearly 80% of the American Indian population in California resides in urban areas (2000 U.S. Census).
The migration of American Indians into cities is due in large part to the federal relocation policies that began in the 1950s. American Indians migrated, by force or by choice, into California cities seeking education, employment and housing opportunities. This has resulted in the vast majority of urban Indians being unable to access their tribes for health services. Urban Indian health organizations, substance abuse treatment facilities, and social service agencies are a key lifeline for the population. ( Click on image for larger version)
American Indians are beneficiaries of a unique trust relationship with the United States government and are recipients of basic resources including health care.
With the clear majority of American Indians living in urban areas, congress has reaffirmed its obligation to facilitate health care access and services to the urban Indian population. The explicit authorization for the provision of health services for urban Indians is Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (1976).
Despite the fact that the clear majority of American Indians reside in urban communities, the Indian Health Service budget consistently reflects only a 1% funding allocation for urban programs out of all federal spending on American Indian health. As a result, UIHOs rely on diverse funding streams, including state, county, local and private funding. With state and local health care budgets being slashed in California, UIHOs are in a renewed fight to maintain the funding, resources, and infrastructure they need to serve the urban Indian population.
Economic, cultural, social, historical factors, as well as access to health care have led to severe health disparities among the urban Indian population. American Indians in urban areas suffer from chronic health conditions and health disparities that are vastly disproportionate to the health status of the general population, and other minority groups. Despite reports documenting stunning health disparities, urban Indians living in cities in California remain invisible and under served. ( Click on image for larger version)