The construction of the Kinzua Dam in the 1960s has held a powerful symbolic position in the lives of the people of the Seneca Nation and Native Americans everywhere. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic time when the Senecas were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands. Beginning, today, May 10, the Seneca Nation’s “Remember the Removal” committee will host a series of educational and interactive public events leading up to the annual September 27 remembrance ceremony.
More than 600 families were forced from 10,000 acres of ancestral land along “Ohi:yo” the Allegany River by the United States Army Corp of Engineers. Their homes were burned and happy families relocated were left broken hearted and lost. Treaties that were held sacred by the Seneca Nation were broken. The removal period was a dark and difficult time for the Seneca people. It was especially hard on the elders, those who were tied to the land in a mutually respectful and spiritual way.
“This year marks the 50th year since the construction of the Kinzua Dam turned the peaceful Allegany River Valley into the ‘valley of smoke’ where flames engulfed family homes and the ever rising waters inundated the small villages that dotted the river banks,” said Tracie Brown, Remember the Removal Consultant. “In 1964, after years of struggling with the Army Corps of Engineers to consider better alternatives and insisting on the U.S. Congress to honor the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty, the Kinzua Dam was built. The lands that were promised to the Senecas were flooded, but we remember by passing down this legacy to our future generations.”
The 2014 “Remember the Removal” events schedule includes:
—May 10 – Films: Last days of Kinzua, This Loss of Lands, Ray Evans Theater, Salamanca, N.Y. at 6 p.m.
—June 20 – Laurence Hauptman, book signing of his new book “In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians Since WWII”, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Native American Community Service Center, 1005 Grant St., Buffalo, N.Y.
—August 9 – Community Field Day, Fort Apache Outdoor Box Lacrosse Tournament, Steamburg, N.Y., from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
—July 18-20 – Veterans Pow Wow, Salamanca, N.Y., displays and honor dances
—Allegany River to Kinzua Dam excursions-to be announced
—September 26 – 5k walk and bonfire and talking circle, Allegany Community Center grounds
—September 27 – “Remember the Removal” Ceremonial Walk and Community Dinner, presenters, dedications
“Today, it is often difficult to imagine what our parents and grandparents went through 50 years ago,” said Brown. “When our elders speak of the ‘old places,’ they are reliving a time period that has witnessed rapid and drastic change. For the many who have never known these lands of our ancestors, we have an obligation to pass these stories on.”