Abraham Lincoln’s Uneasy Relationship With Native Americans

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As America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln left a towering legacy. His deep belief in the founding principles of American democracy—that every human deserved liberty and the opportunity for self-determination—compelled him to free enslaved African Americans. But when it came to the nation’s Indigenous peoples, who were collectively struggling for their lives, lands and cultural survival, he fell short of applying those cherished American ideals.

Lincoln, whose grandfather was killed by Indian raiders, had limited direct contact with Native Americans himself, despite having been raised on the frontier. As a young man, he volunteered to serve in the Black Hawk War, a conflict over tribal lands, but didn’t see combat.



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