The U.S. Census Bureau analyzed the 20 cities with the most Native Americans and compared the poverty rates from 2007 to 2011 in a report released Wednesday.
Of the communities listed, about half were in New Mexico and Arizona.
All of the New Mexico cities listed had higher poverty rates than the state's rate, which was 21.5 percent. The country's was 15.9 percent.
Shiprock's poverty rate was the highest in the Southwest, though. Its rate was 39.6 percent.
Other communities in the region also were high on the list. Gallup was fourth with 31.8 percent, Zuni Pueblo was fifth with 31.8 percent and Farmington was seventh with 29.6 percent.
"Unfortunately, our community has been in this condition too long," said Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie. "The only way is up."
More than 96 percent of Shiprock is Native American, according to 2010 Census figures. The annual per capita income is about $12,300.
Gallup was fourth on the list, and Farmington seventh. Albuquerque was 12th.
"Farmington it's a border town. It's not a metropolis, so it has constraints for employment for everybody," said Evelyn Blanchard, an organizer for the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. "Plus, it's the most racist area."
Blanchard said that Native Americans in New Mexico struggle to find jobs, especially in the Northwest
Some locals believe it is less about racism and more about lack of opportunity.
Many Daily Times readers said high poverty rates are caused by the lack of jobs and development in the area, according to comments posted on the newspaper's Facebook page.
Others blamed federal, tribal and state government programs that encourage financial dependence, especially ones that are exclusively for Native Americans.
"There are some wonderfully hard-working people, and there are other people that ... want you to take care of them," said Heather Abbe, of Aztec, who said she's worked with many Navajo since moving to Farmington seven years ago.
"Until people stop depending on the federal government, there's not going to be a change," Abbe said.
Others disagreed, saying that some employers are racist and are less likely to hire Navajo employees. On the other hand, some pointed out that Navajo get an advantage on certain job applications because they are Navajo.
"I'm not saying that all Navajos are dependent on the government, I'm just saying that it gives them a sense of dependency," Abbe said.
Nine states had poverty rates of about 30 percent or more for Native Americans and Alaska Natives: New Mexico, Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.ÊÊ
Rapid City, S.D., had the highest poverty rate with nearly 51 percent, and Minneapolis had the second-highest with 48.3 percent.
Jenny Kane may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4636. Follow Kane on Twitter @Jenny_Kane