Mt. Apo has a total of thirty-nine (39) barangay communities residing within the park. The 1997 unvalidated census and registration showed a population of 25,252 individuals, distributed in some 6,845 households. Of this household count, 2,232 (33%) are indigents – including a number of migrating IPs’ to the area. Nearly one and a half percent (1.49%) also include some migrating Muslims. The bulk of the population by household comprises migrants, coming mostly from the Visayas region and a few from Luzon and Mindanao itself. Social groupings among Mt. Apo occupants are generally sectoral in nature. These include organization of farmers; church and tribe-based; youth and women. In some areas, loose groupings are also notable, majority were organized as beneficiaries of a project like water system and livestock dispersal. At least ten (10) religious affiliations bond the park occupants. This is dominated by the Roman Catholic, followed by Iglesia ni Cristo; Seventh Day Adventist; Baptist; Four Square; Methodist; CAMACOP (Alliance); UCCP, Islam and Alpha Omega.
The Bagobos, Manobos and Klata tribes consider Mt. Apo as their ancestral domain and their home since time immemorial. These tribes have lived around this mountain that they also consider as sacred ground, their place of worship and burial ground of Apo Sandawa, their great forefather. A number of genealogies of known Lumad leaders in South Central Mindanao trace their roots to Mt. Apo. For the Lumads, the term Apo was coined from the name of their great grandparent Apo Sandawa. Mt. Apo is the wellspring of their spiritual and cultural way of life, source of food and medicine.
Many of the tribal communities have been culturally assimilated. Except for a few communities in Magpet, Kidapawan, Makilala and Sta. Cruz less and less traditional tribal communities can be found living in the park. Nonetheless, many of the IP- inhabited barangays still maintain the traditional political structures called the Tribal Council or Council of Elders. However the matters that these councils have jurisdiction have been significantly altered over time. Instead, the local government structures of Barangay Council and Lupong Tagapamayapa have taken over many of the matters that used to be decided by the elders. In several of the municipalities, tribal communities have been organized according to the geo-political divisions and have been accredited with the municipal local government.