Friday, April 7, 2017

Native Americans in Utah and Uintah County

The word 'Utah' means 'top of the mountains' and is derived from the Ute Indian language." --From a Utah tourist brochure dated June 1955.

"The word 'Utah originated with the people inhabiting that region..of the Utah nation, which belongs to the Shoshone family. There were many tribes...There were the Pah Utes...and many others. Pah signifies water. ...Pah Utes, Indians that live about the water." --from Hubert H. Bancroft's "History of Utah." published in 1964.

"Utah comes from the Ute tribe and means 'people of the mountains." --From the Information Please 1994 almanac.

"Utah -- from a Navajo word meaning upper, or higher up, as applied to a Shoshone tribe called Ute. Spanish form is Yutta. English is Uta or Utah." --From The 1979 World Almanac and Book of Facts.

These quotes compiled by the Utah Education Network website show that we are still not sure where the  state’s name came from but fairly certain that it originated with the state’s indigenous peoples. There are roughly 32 thousand Native Americans in Utah, or a little over 1 percent of the population.

There are eight federally recognized Indian tribes in the state:

·         Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (Nevada and Utah)

·         Navajo Nation (Arizona, New Mexico and Utah)

·         Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Nation 

·         Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah  (Cedar Band of Paiutes, Kanosh Band of Paiutes, Koosharem Band of Paiutes, Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes)

·         Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians of Utah

·         Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation

·         Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (Colorado, New Mexico and Utah)

These tribes are distributed across the breadth of Utah with concentrations in the eastern and southwestern parts of the state. There is also is significant Native American presence along the Wasatch front population centers.

The Department of Workforce Services has just published an interactive graphic detailing demographic information about Utah’s Native American population. The visualization has six tabs.  Unlike other department graphic tools, it has a principal focus on raw numbers rather than proportions because of the huge disparity in populations at the county level. For example there are thousands of Native Americans in San Juan County but only one person in Rich County.

The first tab presents median earnings defined as compensation from all employment plus other sources of income. This is a useful measure when comparing the income of workers who may receive non-wage income from the sales of agricultural products or bonus income from the sale of tribal natural resources. The number of counties is limited because of the paucity of reliable data in counties with small Native American populations.  Statewide, full time males earn slightly less than their national counterparts. The same is true for female Native American Utahns. It must be noted that Utah tribes are geographically disadvantaged when compared to their Pacific and eastern peers; tribal seats are far from the major population areas and therefore unable to market their legal and cultural advantages as effectively.

The second tab shows veterans status by age. Native American Utahns are less likely to be former members of the armed forces.  For Utahns and the nation as a whole, younger people are much less likely to be veterans than their elders.

The third tab shows educational attainment, Here, the results are mixed. The distribution for male Utahns is about the same as for male Native Americans nationally; around 13 percent of males have college degrees and roughly 23 percent have not finished high schools. However only 11 percent of Utah females have college while the comparable national statistic is close to 13 percent  Further, Utah lags the national statistics with respect to the native American females without a high school; diploma by roughly two percentage points. 

The fourth tab shows Native American home ownership. Here the Utah statistics are very similar to the nations; the majority of the population owns their home either outright are with a mortgage. Around 45 percent rent.

The fifth and final tab details poverty rates. Roughly 32 percent of Utah Native Americans are in poverty. In contrast, 28 percent of their national counterparts are in poverty. Roughly 55 percent of the population in poverty is female; the national analogue is only slightly less. 6 percent of the Utah’s senor Native American population exists below the poverty level. The national number is markedly higher at 11 percent.

Uintah County

The Uintah and Ouray reservation is located in Northeastern Utah. The tribal seat is Fort Duchesne, approximately 150 miles east of Salt Lake City. It is the second largest Indian Reservation in the United States and covers over 4.5 million acres. It lies in parts of seven counties: Uintah, Duchesne, WasatchGrandCarbonUtah, and Emery. The reservation (in some form) has been in existence since 1864.

The vast majority of the tribe’s population resides in Duchesne and Uintah counties. The latest Census Bureau estimates for population are 800 Native Americans Duchesne County and 2,631 Native Americans in Uintah County. This represents 4 and 7 percent of the two county’s total population, respectively. This blog posts will concentrate on Uintah county residents; this constitutes the vast majority Uintah Basin residents. Furthermore, like their nonnative counterparts, the statistics for Duchesne and Uintah Counties are quite similar. This underlying reason for this is that, like the rest of the Uintah basin, economic activity is dominated by natural gas and oil extraction.

Uintah County Native American earnings are roughly equivalent to the national average; this is no doubt due to natural resource distributions. The earnings of the Uintah County’s Native Americans working full time are relatively unaffected by sex; median earnings are roughly the same for both men and women  This is in contrast to the state and national average; women tend to earn much less than men. However, the male/female part time work differential is much larger than the one reported both statewide and nationally.

The proportion of Native American veterans in Uintah County is around 11 percent. This lies between the state and national rate of 9 percent and 14 percent, respectively.  Veteran’s status for those over 65 years old is very similar to the national archetype. However, county Native Americans ages 18-65 are much less likely to be veterans than Native Americans nationally; only 5 percent of county residents are veterans as opposed to 11 percent across the country.    

Only 6 percent of Uintah County Native Americans hold bachelor’s degrees. Again, the statewide number is close to 12 percent. In contrast, the proportion of the population without a high school diploma or equivalent is 33 percent; the statewide number is 21 percent.

Roughly one-half of the population owns their homes free and clear. This statistics overstates the areas’ wealth. Federal law prohibits the alienation of tribal lands. Since nonnative lenders cannot foreclose, there is virtually no mortgage market on the reservation.

Poverty is much less prevalent for Native Americans in Uintah County than statewide; 27 percent of the population is in poverty. Again, the statewide number is around 32 percent. Also, this rate is roughly the same as national poverty rates. In addition, the poverty rate for both males and females is roughly the same in Uintah County. The lower rates are probably caused by the tribe’s ability to distribute royalty income from natural resource extraction. However the proportion of tribal member over 65 in poverty is lower than the statewide rate but above the national rate; 37 percent of elderly tribal members are in poverty.