Lincoln and the Indians

lincolnandtheindianscoverFirst published in 1978, Lincoln and the Indians remains the definitive study of Lincoln’s Indian policies and the corrupt “Indian System” of the Civil War period that benefited unscrupulous white politicians at the expense of the tribes. In the broad context of the Civil War and western development, Nichols covers the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 in Minnesota (including the proposed executions of 303 Dakota men), the government’s inept handling of the Five Civilized Tribes in the Indian Territory and refugees in Kansas, and the movement to reform the Indian System. The third edition was published in July 2012 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.


“[A] fine volume. The author makes his case with clear prose, impressive research, and thoughtful analysis that illuminates the historical process at its best. This excellent volume should be acquired by Illinoisans interested in the Lincoln Presidency and should be required by professors as supplemental reading for college students.” –Raymond E. Hauser, Journal of Illinois History

“Lincoln and the Indians has stood the test of time and offers this generation of readers a valuable interpretation of the U.S. government’s Indian policies . . . Nichols sets forth an especially incisive analysis of the trial of participants in the Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota and Lincoln’s role in sparing the lives of most of those who were convicted.” –James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“For the Dakota people, the Indian System started with the Doctrine of Discovery and continued through Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and beyond. The United States was bound to protect the rights of Indian parties. But in the end, the guilty were glorified, and the laws for humanity disgraced. This book tells that story, and it should be required reading at all educational institutions.” –Sheldon P. Wolfchild, independent filmmaker, artist and actor

“Undoubtedly the best book published on Indian affairs in the years of Lincoln’s presidency.” –Henry E. Fritz, American Historical Review

“[Nichols] does a superb job of probing the multiple factors and the complex interrelationship of events that produced Lincoln’s Indian policy during the Civil War.” –American Indian Quarterly

“Provocative and original… Nichols has given us a valuable study of a wretched side of the Lincoln era, one that specialists and generalists alike can no longer ignore.” –Stephen B. Oates, Journal of American History