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Kinzua Reservoir and Dam: The Road to Nowhere

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When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
– Old Indian saying

The following is excerpted from “Information about the Seneca Indians from This Seneca’s Perspective.”

In 1960 the Seneca Indians were forcibly removed from their land to make room for the Kinzua Dam project. The Seneca Nation lost 10,000 acres of land to the Kinzua Dam project, which forced over 700 Seneca Indians to abandon their homes and relocate. Replacement housing had to be found for the people whose homes were soon to be flooded. To lose their homes on the reservation was really to lose a part of their lives. The lands taken had great religious and social significance to the Seneca Indians.

The Seneca Nation were known as "keepers of the western door of the Iroquois Confederacy" and they have lived in this part of the country since prehistoric times. The Seneca Indians have a long history of "losing things" to the white man; after the Revolutionary War the missionaries, who had come here to convert the natives, split the Seneca Nation into two factions.

The Seneca people who chose to accept the missionaries' teachings became the Christian Party while those who chose not to follow the white men became known as the Pagan Party. The Pagans chose to follow the prophet Handsome Lake; he would help revitalize the Indian culture and formed the basis for the Longhouse religion. Longhouse is a very important part of the modern day Seneca’s lifestyle.

When the treaty of 1794 between the United States and the Seneca Nation was broken in 1960 to make way for the Kinzua Dam project, it would be the last land lost by Native Americans to the white man in this country.

Imagine what it must have been like for the Seneca to stand by and helplessly watch as the men from the Army Corps of Engineers torched and destroyed their homes and businesses. The anger they must have felt as the white men moved in on their land with huge bulldozers and toppled all the trees and churned over all the rich, lush vegetation and wildlife that had sustained them and their ancestors all these years. Imagine the heart-wrenching horror that crossed their faces and souls as their dead were dug up like old bones to be reburied in scattered cemeteries. The Seneca people would stand helplessly by as their very existence was discarded to make way for the modernization and progress of the United States of America.

The Kinzua Dam and Reservoir Project was necessary. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the dam was

[a]uthorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938, Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir is one of 16 flood control projects in the Pittsburgh District. The project provides complete protection for Warren, Pa., from Allegheny River flooding, and in conjunction with other projects in the District substantially reduced flooding in the Allegheny and upper Ohio River Valleys.

The reservoir provides water during dry periods. This helps to decrease pollution and improve water quality for domestic, industrial, and recreational uses.

The dam and reservoir also help maintain navigable depths for commercial traffic on the Allegheny and upper Ohio Rivers. Another important benefit of the dam is hydroelectric power; the power plant is run by First Energy Corporation and its peak capacity is 400,000 kilowatts per hour.

The necessity of the Kinzua Dam and Reservoir was dramatically demonstrated in 1972 the floods resulting from Tropical Storm Agnes when an estimated $247 million in flood damages were prevented. Since the dam's completion in 1965, Kinzua has prevented flood damages in excess of one billion dollars.

My husband Rick and I consider the Kinzua Reservoir to be one of our favorite places. Once we went on a boat trip with one of Rick’s co-workers, Kathy, and her son Jonathan. We had a ball that day gliding smoothly through the glassy cool water into private coves, nooks, and crannies that can only be reached by boat. We went as close as possible to the dam before turning around to head towards Wolf Run Marina for an outdoor lunch on the deck; here we fed dog food to the carp and ducks  who live together in the water near the docks, scarfing up free food from children and childish adults.

About Jeannie Danna

  • SD

    Beautiful article!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hi, Jeannie. Just to say hello. I’ll read it tomorrow.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, Jeannie. Tremendous work. All so vivid, and your attention to detail is amazing, so much so that it makes one feel as though being able to share these experiences with you. I also love the way your intertwine your description of nature with social commentary. It’s seamless.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Imagine what it must have been like for the Seneca to stand by and helplessly watch as the men from the Army Corps of Engineers torched and destroyed their homes and businesses. The anger they must have felt as the white men moved in on their land with huge bulldozers and toppled all the trees and churned over all the rich, lush vegetation and wildlife that had sustained them and their ancestors all these years.

    I saw something very similar happen in Gush Qatif four years ago. “Israelis” pressured by the government of the United States, uprooted the homes of 10,000 people so that “peace” could be served up. We saw another example of Americans breaking their commitments once again in al-Qahir a few days ago when your president promised peace with Islam on Jewish land.

    If some American son-of-a-bitch – or his kike puppet – pulls the shit here that they pulled on the Seneca Indians, I’ll not watch helplessly. I know how to shoot – to kill.

  • Jeannie Danna

    Ruvy-(The Kinzua Dam and Reservoir Project was necessary.)
    I am very sorry to read your comment. If you read the rest of my article there was a reason for the Dam and reservoir.
    There are always two sides to every story Ruvy. The yin and yang is not just a snappy little design; it means that we have to open up to all the reasons people are motivated to act as they do.
    In this year 2009 we have to find peace here and in your homeland for all people or none of us are going to be around to have a future.
    I hope my words make sense to you. Your friend, Jeannie…:)The BC lefty with big hopes for all of us

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Jeannie,

    Your comments on the necessity for the dam only drive home my point. There was no need to destroy the economy of Gush Qatif at all. At one point, it provided employment for Arabs, helping them top put food on the table with dignity and peace. But Arab terrorists, with American pressure on the Israeli government, helped destroy all this.

    So long as America intervenes in our affairs, I’ll keep the gun oiled and loaded. I’m not damned Indian to be driven off his land just to satisfy some shit in Washington.

  • Jeannie Danna

    What is the solution here? can you articulate to the President what should be done to bring peace to the Israeli and Palestinian people?
    I have the # call 1-202-456-1111 or
    see
    I am not trying to be facetious here. I am serious!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jeannie,

    Let me point you to another one of my favorite writers on BC. It’s short and sweet, and here it is.

    I hope you don’t mind my using your thread. I think you’ll love it. Also listen to the video.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    PS: the link is right, but you’ve got to navigate to page 1 (sorry).

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Jeannie,

    Before going further, let me compliment you on your article. It was, as your other articles are, very well written. Also let me tell you, since you probably do not know, that I am a leftist, very much a leftist, who believes in syndicalist socialism as a method of achieving economic equality and justice, as well as promoting competition to maintain quality in products.

    Now to answer your question:

    One possible solution is, after blowing up Riyadh, and encouraging King Abdallah II of Jordan to return to Mecca and Medina as Guardian of the Two Holy Cities, for the United States to get the hell out of the Middle East, stop aiding Israel, Egypt and everybody else. The key to peace in the Middle East is to leave Israel to create it, and force her to act by withdrawing American “support” and constant interference. We do not need you here. Go home! The result would be that the traitors who sell us out in Jerusalem would be forced out of power by people who think a lot like me. They would impose a viable solution on the region using Israel’s nuclear force as the club to bully the Arabs (and Persians) into accepting it.

    The other solution is the one the American administration has been sidling towards for decades – a slaughter of the Jews.

    Which do you prefer?

  • Bliffle

    So? What happened to the Seneca indians who had lived there?

  • Jeannie Danna

    They split the Seneca people into two reservations offering them three acres of land per family. One of these reservations houses Salamanca, NY the only US City on Indian land in the country. The non-Indians who live there don’t own their homes they can only lease.

  • Bliffle

    So? What happened to the other group?

    Do the Seneca think that their situation is improved?

  • Ruvy

    Jeannie,

    Apparently some of the Seneca had some kind of closure to the loss of their homes. This has not happened in Gush Qatif at all.

    Not only were their lives uprooted for no good reason (at least there was a dam good reason to uproot the Seneca), they have not been restored at all to their former status, or recompensed in any way for their losses.

  • Jeannie Danna

    Bliffle, to answer your #13 The other reservation is Steamburg and other people moved to Kansas. This looks like what happened after Katrina hit New Orleans…:( Click on my first link.

  • Bliffle

    Are you going to followup with an article about the current living conditions of the Seneca? Are you going to their new homes?

  • Jeannie Danna

    Bliffe, That is an excellent idea! This time I will ask some of my friends who are Seneca to contribute their voice. I feel funny speaking for them when I am really just a tourist.
    I emailed Brad Jimmerson,the man who wrote the blog I linked to, but I have not heard back from him.
    There is a film of the destruction of the homes and land. My husband brought it home on DVD. I wish I could find it on the web I would place it here. When we watched it I cried.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jeannie,

    That would be nice. And you could do it in the form of an interview – quite a common format on BC.