Abstract Background The prevalence of tobacco usage in Native American adults and adolescents is higher than any other racial or ethnic group, yet biological risk and protective factors underlying tobacco use in this ethnic group remain unknown. A genome scan for loci associated with tobacco use phenotypes was performed with data collected from a community sample of Mission Indians residing in Southwest California. Methods A structured diagnostic interview was used to define two tobacco use phenotypes: 1) any regular tobacco usage (smoked daily for one month or more) and 2) persistent tobacco usage (smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day for more than one year). Heritability was determined and a linkage analysis was performed, using genotypes for a panel 791 microsatellite polymorphisms, for the two phenotypes using variance component methods implemented in SOLAR. Results Analyses of multipoint variance component LOD scores for the two tobacco use phenotypes revealed two scores that exceeded 2.0 for the regular use phenotype: one on chromosomes 6 and one on 8. Four other loci on chromosomes 1,7,13, and 22 were found with LOD scores between 1.0 and 1.5. Two loci of interest were found on chromosomes 1 and 4 for the persistent use phenotype with LOD scores between 1.3–1.5. Bivariate linkage analysis was conducted at the site on chromosome 4 for persistent tobacco use and an alcohol drinking severity phenotype previously identified at this site. The maximum LOD score for the bivariate analysis for the region was 3.4, however, there was insufficient power to exclude coincident linkage. Conclusion While not providing evidence for linkage to specific chromosomal regions these results identify regions of interest in the genome in this Mission Indian population, for tobacco usage, some of which were identified in previous genome scans of non-native populations. Additionally, these data lend support for the hypothesis that cigarette smoking, alcohol dependence and other consumptive behaviors may share some common risk and/or protective factors in this Mission Indian population.