57% of Americans believe that the US committed crimes against humanity as the country was settled
A report released by the Canadian government last week determined that the government of Canada had committed 'cultural genocide' against the First Nations of Canada, who are the equivalent of Native Americans in the United States. In the United States the government has not reached a similar conclusion, but Native American activists draw attention to a long history of abuses at the hands of American authorities. Over the course of centuries, but particularly from the early-19th Century to the end of the 19th Century, Native Americans were systematically and forcefully deprived of their land and forced onto reservations. Notable incidents include the 'Trail of Tears' where a third of Cherokee died as they were forcefully expelled from present day Alabama and Mississippi to Oklahoma. Today the very poorest counties in the country are reservations.
Research from YouGov shows that most Americans think that the United States committed crimes against humanity as it settled formerly Native American lands. 57% say that the US is guilty of crimes against humanity while only 17% think that the United States is not.
Whites are more likely than non-whites to think the US committed crimes against humanity, and older Americans more likely than younger ones but the biggest differences are along partisan lines.
Most Democrats (68%) and independents (58%) believe the US is guilty. Republicans are the most skeptical, but even they tend to say that the US is (44%) rather than is not (32%) guilty of crimes against humanity as it settled what is now the United States.
People in the Midwest (64%) are the most likely to say that the US committed crimes against humanity as it settled Native American lands, while people in the Northeast (51%) are the least likely.
Most Americans (52%) also agree that the federal government should apologize to Native Americans for how they were treated in the past. In 2009 an apology was offered to Native Americans for how they were treated, but the apology did not refer specifically to 'crimes' and explicitly sought to prevent the apology being used to claim compensation in court.
Most Democrats (70%) and independents (53%) think that the federal government should apologize, though most Republicans (54%) oppose an apology. Even though 44% of Republicans think the US is guilty of crimes against humanity in settling Native American lands, only 31% think that Native Americans deserve an apology.
A nation 'born in genocide'?
Martin Luther King once said that, as a result of America's original determination that Native Americans were inferior to whites and the brutal treatment that followed, "our nation was born in genocide".
Americans narrowly tend to agree with this statement, with 40% in agreement and 32% disagreeing. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) agree with it, and independent tend to agree with it 42% to 29%. Among Republicans nearly half (49%) disagree that the US was born in genocide, though 28% of Republicans do agree.