About this Dashboard

This dashboard presents the percentage of farms on reservation lands controlled by Native people, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations.

Native Land Areas
Years of Coverage
Data Visualizations
Possible Visualizations

About the Data

The Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations reports the acres of “land in farms” operated by Native people as well as the total acreage for all farms on a reservation. Percentages of Native-operated farms were calculated out of the reported total.

In the census, the minimum requirement for inclusion in the former category is at least for one producer to be an American Indian or Alaskan Native. That producer can be exclusively an American Indian or Alaska Native or can be an American Indian in combination with one or more other races.

Of the 73 reservations included in the 2017 Census, farmland acreage is excluded in their report for 37 reservations, to avoid disclosing data for individual farms.

The acreage designated as ‘‘land in farms’’ consists primarily of agricultural land used for crops, pasture, or grazing. It also includes woodland and wasteland not actually under cultivation or used for pasture or grazing, provided it was part of the farm operator’s total operation. Large acreages of woodland or wasteland held for nonagricultural purposes were deleted from individual reports during the edit process. Land in farms includes CRP, WRP, FWP, and CREP acres. Land in farms is an operating unit concept and includes land owned and operated as well as land rented from others. Land used rent free was reported as land rented from others. All grazing land, except land used under government permits on a per-head basis, was included as ‘‘land in farms’’ provided it was part of a farm or ranch. Land under the exclusive use of a grazing association was reported by the grazing association and included as land in farms. All land in American Indian reservations used for growing crops, grazing livestock, or with the potential of grazing livestock was included as land in farms. Land in reservations not reported by reservation, individual American Indians, or non-Native Americans was reported in the name of the cooperative group that used the land. In some instances, an entire American Indian reservation was reported as one farm.

The Census for American Indian Reservations includes all farms and ranches within the boundaries of the Reservation but does not not distinguish between farmers and ranchers operating on trust land with those operating in fee or deeded lands within Reservation boundaries.

The published Census reports only quantified each variable for “Native” and “Reservation Total” and does not report statistics for “Non-native” which conceals the extreme disparity that exists between native and non-native producers operation on Native American Reservations. For this dashboard, we have included a provisional calculation for “Non-native” producers, making it possible to analyze the racial disparity in agriculture on Native Lands. For more information on the agricultural disparity, feel free to visit our other related dashboards HERE

Why is this Data and Dashboard Important?

The number of Native operators is an indicator of how much tribal members benefit from agricultural production on their respective reservations. It is also an indicator of how much tribal land is controlled by native producers and is therefore an interesting proxy to estimate overall tribal land sovereignty. US Federal policies like those establishing allotment, or BIA’s documented tribal land management practices leasing the land out to non-native producers have historically benefited non-native agriculture to the detriment of native agriculture on reservations. Proactive tribal policies such as establishing native leasing preference can help curve the line to support sovereign tribal food-systems.


The data featured here is from the Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations, which only include 75 reservations. Whereas it contains key information about the state of native agriculture in these territories, the census data also contributes to making smaller tribes efforts invisible. Additionally, the Census of Agriculture is a western data tool concerned with commodified for profit food production and is therefore showing data pertaining to agricultural revenue and other quantitative outputs. This makes the census a very limited tool to assess the complexity and nuances of native food-systems, which comprise non-for profit food production, wild harvesting, and other culturally-significant practices and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This dashboard resource simply intends to complement tribal data sovereignty efforts to collect, analyze and protect locally-specific information.

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