SD Indian population younger than other groups

By Chet Brokaw
Pierre, South Dakota (AP) March 2012

South Dakota’s American Indian population is younger than the state’s white population, a trend officials say has implications for the provision of education and other services.

U.S. census data released show that nearly 44 percent of South Dakota’s Native American population was 19 or younger in the 2010 count. But only about 25 percent of the state’s white population was 19 or younger.

The Census Bureau’s report shows that about 51 percent of South Dakota’s American Indian population was between 20 and 64, while 5 percent was 65 or older. Among the state’s white population, nearly 59 percent was 20-64, while 16 percent was 65 or older.

Michael McCurry, an extension specialist at South Dakota State University specializing in demography, said the large population of young American Indians is part of an overall increase in the state’s Indian population. While the white population dominates in the eastern part of South Dakota, Indian populations dominate in reservation counties in central and western areas, he said.

“An increasing amount of our youth is going to be Native,” McCurry said. “It has tremendous implications for education and other services.

“If we go back to 1850, the majority of the population was Lakota. If we look at the trend, we seem to be becoming more and more American Indian again,” McCurry said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the birth rate in reservation counties has been higher than in other areas of the state in recent years. The birth rate has been low in many rural counties with predominantly white populations that have few women of child-bearing age, he said.

The large proportion of young people in the American Indian population has implications for South Dakota’s education policies, Daugaard said.

“It reminds us how important education is and how important it is that we focus on education, especially in the areas where we have an increasing population of youth,” the governor said.

In contrast to the youth-dominated American Indian population, South Dakota’s overall population is aging, with the fastest growing group between 55 and 64. That could mean a shortage of workers as those people retire, business leaders have said.

The Census Bureau reported earlier that American Indians accounted for 8.8 percent of South Dakota’s population of 814,180 in 2010, but some tribal officials have questioned whether Native Americans were undercounted. South Dakota’s white population accounted for about 86 percent of the state’s people.