In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians Since World War II

Laurence M. Hauptman
Syracuse University Press
Syracuse, NY

From 1960 through 1965, the construction of the Kinzua Dam in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania spared thousands from devastating flood damage, provided hydroelectric power for the surrounding cities and villages, and continues to serve as a recreational spot for boaters and campers. In order to build the dam, however, the government claimed 10,000 acres of the Allegheny Reservation granted to the Seneca nation in 1794. Over 600 Seneca people were forced to leave their homes near the river which has helped shape their religious beliefs and economic livelihood.

In In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians since World War II, Laurence M. Hauptman draws on extensive federal, state, and tribal archival research to explore the political background of the dam. He provides a detailed, and at times personal, account of the devastating impact the dam has had on the Seneca Nation as well as the resilience the tribe has shown in the face of this crisis. Hauptman has written about the Kinzua Dam and worked with the Seneca Nation since 1972, serving as historical researcher and expert witness in litigation on their behalf in federal courts and Congressional hearings.

This publication, based on Hauptman’s forty years of archival research as well as numerous interviews with Senecas, shows how the tribe has adapted in spite of this disaster. Unlike previous studies on the Senecas, he stresses the federated nature of Seneca Nation government, one held together in spite of the great diversity of opinion and intense politics. In the Kinzua crisis and its aftermath, members of the Seneca nation devoted their energies to rebuilding their nation for tribal survival.

Facing large odds and outside forces, In the Shadow of Kinzua demonstrates how Senecans motivated a cadre of volunteers to help rebuild their devastated nation. Although their strategies did not stop the dam’s construction, they laid the groundwork for a tribal governing structure and for other areas that followed from the 1980s to the present, including land claims litigation and casinos. Money allocated in a compensation bill passed by Congress produced a generation of college-educated Senecas, many of whom now work in tribal government making major contributions to the nation’s present and future.