LIFESTYLE

Census: Latinos Outnumber Native Americans in Oklahoma

FILE - In this April 1, 2006 file photo, Patricia Gracia of Chihuahua, Mexico, waves American and Mexican flags at a Justice and Dignity for All Immigrants rally at the steps of the Oklahoma State Capital in Oklahoma City. New U.S. Census Bureau figures for Oklahoma, released Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, show that the state now has more residents who identify themselves as Hispanic than Native American. (AP Photo/Ty Russell, File)

FILE - In this April 1, 2006 file photo, Patricia Gracia of Chihuahua, Mexico, waves American and Mexican flags at a Justice and Dignity for All Immigrants rally at the steps of the Oklahoma State Capital in Oklahoma City. New U.S. Census Bureau figures for Oklahoma, released Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, show that the state now has more residents who identify themselves as Hispanic than Native American. (AP Photo/Ty Russell, File)  (AP2006)

There are more Latinos than Native Americans in Oklahoma according to U.S. Census figures released Tuesday.

Over the past decade, the number of Hispanics has nearly doubled from 179,304 in 2000 to 332,007 in 2010. Hispanics now account for 9 percent of the state's 3.75 million residents, compared to 8.5 percent for Native Americans.

Over the past decade, the number of Hispanics has nearly doubled from 179,304 in 2000 to 332,007 in 2010. Hispanics now account for 9 percent of the state's 3.75 million residents, compared to 8.5 percent for Native Americans.

While Oklahoma is likely to maintain the nation's largest per capita population of Native Americans, their numbers are not growing nearly as rapidly as the booming Hispanic population.

"I suspect that Native Americans took a little bit of pride in being the largest minority population," said state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi tribe. "Now it's the Hispanic population that can now take that pride."

Oklahoma's history has been linked to Native Americans decades before it gained statehood in 1907. It is home to dozens of sovereign tribes, many forced from their homes along the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. It's also the birthplace of iconic cowboy and humorist Will Rogers, a member of a prominent Cherokee Nation family who was born in Indian Territory that later became the state.

While the 85 percent population spike has allowed Hispanics to become the state's largest minority, the population of people identifying themselves solely as Native Americans increased from 273,230 in 2000 (7.9 percent of all Oklahoma residents) to 321,687 (8.5 percent) in 2010.

When all combinations of mixed-race people are included, over 12 percent of Oklahomans claim some level of Indian ancestry.

Former Oklahoma House Speaker Larry Adair, chairman of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, said it proves the state continues to be a "melting pot." Still, he said he was surprised Hispanics had moved past Native Americans in population.

In the far western Oklahoma Panhandle, Hispanics drawn to the region by swine farms and other concentrated animal feeding operations comprise 36 percent of the population, according to the census figures.

More than 17 percent of the 580,000 residents of Oklahoma City, the state's largest city, now identify themselves as being of Hispanic descent while in Tulsa, the state's second largest city, 14 percent of its 392,000 residents say they are Hispanic. Lawton and Enid also recorded significant concentrations of Hispanic residents.

State lawmakers said the substantial increase in Hispanic residents, especially in south Oklahoma City, make it more likely than ever that they will be able draw new legislative voting districts with Hispanic majorities although proponents of anti-illegal immigration legislation may voice opposition.

"There will be, I'm sure, some," said Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, chairman of the Oklahoma's House's Redistricting Committee. "But at the end of the day, we'll do this thing as fair as we possibly can. If we don't do it fair, the thing will end up in court."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow us on twitter.com/foxnewslatino
Like us at facebook.com/foxnewslatino