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The Significance of Kinzua to our Seneca People
The construction and history of Kinzua Dam and the Allegheny Reservoir is seen by our Seneca people as a traumatic event that has deeply impacted our culture and way of life. In the words of our Seneca people, here is what makes Kinzua Dam significant to us.
An excerpt from a Seneca Nation community newsletter:
The 10,000 acres of the Nation's Territory that was flooded to make way for the impoundment were the most productive subsistence and agricultural lands of the Nation's Allegany Territory. The Seneca were forcibly relocated, and the government burned their homes, schools, and churches. Significant cultural, sacred and ceremonial sites were flooded, including a Longhouse and burial grounds.
The citizens of the Seneca Nation have suffered profound cultural, economic and environmental harms from the federal government's unilateral taking of their homes, lands, and river to construct and operate Kinzua Dam and the Pumped Storage Project. The federal government's actions comprise a shameful episode in American history, and have significantly harmed the Seneca Nation's treaty rights, including its reserved water rights, to the pecuniary benefit of downstream interests, including the current licensee of the project.
George Heron, our Seneca Nation President (1958-1960, 1962-1964), speaking at the Nov 22, 1963 American Anthropological Association, 62nd Annual Meeting:
Within the next year the Seneca Nation will undergo a drastic change in community life. There will be social and cultural impositions as a result...The taking of this land might as well have been done with a bayonet. It was compulsory. There was no determination on the part of the Senecas to 'choose to sell.' Major decisions about the reservoir water level, the basic new highway layout, etc. offer little chance for Seneca self-determination...The principals of consent could have been honored. The Seneca Nation could have been involved with the Federal Government in seeking together a solution to the flood control and water storage problem. Perhaps a better solution might have been worked out jointly than that by conceived by the Corps.
Melvin Patterson speaking at the American Indian Day gathering of Seneca people at the Cornplanter Grant, September 15, 1962:
From this day forward we of Indian blood will call the waters that flood this reservation practically out of existence the Lake of Perfidy.
While this exhibit does not focus on the relocation of our Seneca communities from our Allegany Territory, more information about these events can be found in other exhibits and resources in the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, located in its new home, the
Onöhsagwë:dé Cultural Center.