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.