Abraham Lincoln’s Uneasy Relationship With Native Americans

Like America 16and President, Abraham Lincoln left an impressive legacy. His deep belief in the founding principles of American democracy – that every human being deserved freedom and the ability to self-determine – compelled him to free enslaved African Americans. But when it came to the nation’s Indigenous peoples, who collectively struggled for their lives, lands and cultural survival, he failed to live up to those cherished American ideals.

Lincoln, whose grandfather was killed by Indian raiders, himself had limited direct contact with Native Americans, despite being raised on the frontier. As a young man, he volunteered to serve in the Black Hawk War, a conflict over tribal lands, but saw no combat.

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