Built in the early 1960s over the protests of the ACLU, Johnny Cash, and the Seneca Nation, the Kinzua Dam flooded one third of the remaining Seneca lands in Allegheny territory, including fertile farms and ancient burial grounds. 600 Seneca were forced to move from their land. Most moved north to Salamanca where today the marquee on the former movie theater reads: Stay Safe, Don’t Use Today.
The Seneca’s right to live in peace on their remaining lands was guaranteed in perpetuity by the 1797 Treaty of Big Tree in Geneseo, where the US government in association with land speculators from the Netherlands purchased 3.75 million acres of land from the Haudenosaunee for $100,000 (a little less than 27 cents an acre).
Seneca chiefs including Red Jacket and Corn Planter spoke strongly against the purchase but the US insisted their rights to fish and hunt their traditional lands and enjoy the small parcels reserved would be enjoyed in perpetuity.
Fishing is still possible on the Allegheny Reservoir (24 miles long 21,000 acres wide) if you can afford the marina fee but hunting is no longer possible. And if you are hunting for honor among the representatives of the United States who are sworn to uphold treaties according to the Constitution (the Supreme Law of the Land) you will never find any.
As Johnny Cash sings: (words by Peter Lafarge)
On the Seneca Reservation there is much sadness now
Washington’s treaty has been broken and there is no hope nohow Across the Allegheny River they’re throwing up a dam
It will flood the Indian Country a proud day for Uncle Sam
It has broke the ancient treaty with a polician’s grin
It will drown the Indian graveyards
Corn Planter – can you swim?
The Earth is Mother to the Senecas
They’re trampling sacred ground
Change the mint green earth to black mud flats as Honor hobbles down…
(from As Long As the Grass Shall Grow.)
(Haudenosaunee refuse to use the word reservation. They never ceded these lands, they do not have a trust relationship with US govt. legally as do many western tribes who were forcibly relocated to reservations)