In 1964, Johnny Cash released his album titled Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It was one of Johnny Cash's more controversial albums because it brought public attention to the U.S. government's treatment of its indigenous population. In his song, "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow", Cash brings attention to and narrates the Kinzua Dam controversy.
On the Seneca reservation there is much sadness now
Washington's treaty has been broken and there is no hope no how
Across the Allegheny River they're throwing a dam
It will flood the Indian country a proud day for Uncle Sam
It has broke the ancient treaty with a politician's grin
It will drown the Indians graveyards corn planter can you swim
-Select Lyrics from "As Long As the Grass Shall Grow"
The Senecas hired an expert to figure another site
But the great good army engineers said that he had no right
Although he showed them another plan and showed them another way
They laughed in his face and said no deal Kinzua dam is here to stay
Congress turned the Indians down brushed off the Indians plea
So the Senecas have renamed the dam they call it Lake Perfidy
In the song's lines "The treaties are safe we'll keep our word but what is that gurgling/ It's the back water from Perfidy Lake it's rising all the time" Cash is referencing words from Melvin Patterson spoken on September 15, 1962 at the gathering and honoring of Chief Cornplanter and the Cornplanter Grant, land that would be completely inundated by the Allegany Reservoir.
During Patterson's speech he said "From this day forward we of Indian blood will call the waters that will flood this reservation practically out of existence the Lake of Perfidy." Lake of Perfidy is a reference to the lake that the reservoir would make out of the Senecas unceded land.
In 2015, Antonino D'Ambrosio directed and wrote the documentary We're Still Here: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited that provides more in-depth information on Johnny Cash's album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964).