Kolb on Bilharz, 'The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through Two Generations'

Joy A. Bilharz
Charles C. Kolb

Joy A. Bilharz. The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through Two Generations. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. xxvi + 194 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8032-1282-4.

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb (National Endowment for the Humanities) Published on H-AmIndian (September, 1998)

Paradigms and Realities: The Seneca Nation of Indians and the Federal Government

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer and not of his employer or any other federal agency.

Water-control Projects

Major construction projects--such as the building of the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) water-control projects, Egypt's Aswan High Dam, the Kariba Dam in Zambia, the Hirakud Dam in Orissa, India, and the current construction of the Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River--bring to mind vivid images. These visions are, perhaps, of major earth-disturbing activities and a promise of anticipated benefits to humankind such as hydroelectric power and flood control or, on the other hand, the displacement of local populations for the "public good." Indeed, much has been written about the political and environmental issues related to projects of this type (Goldsmith and Hilyard 1986, McCully 1996).

McCully's definitive work presents a comprehensive case against the construction of large dams and is supported by a wealth of empirical evidence from worldwide contexts. His thorough and devastating critique emphasizes the scientific, environmental, and economic evidence, whild also characterizing the anti-dam movement (1996:281-311). McCully documents 177 completed dams, 18 under construction, 11 stalled or suspended, and 37 planned. However, there is minimal consideration of social and psychological impacts on the displacement of human populations. Thirteen brief reports on "Social and Environmental Impact Studies" appear in Goldsmith and Hilyard (1986:231-239), but little synchronic or diachronic sociocultural research has been conducted--and less published particularly on the issues related to the relocation of persons who lose hearth, home, farmlands, and sacred places.

Some notable exceptions are Albert's (1987) sociopolitical analysis of the proposed Tocks Island Dam on the Delaware River, the papers in Hansen and Oliver Smith (1982), Lawson's (1982) excellent work on the Sioux, and the studies by Scudder, Aberle et al. (1982) and Brugge (1994) on the Navajo and Hopi. But, as Thayer Scudder (1973:49) noted that for all of the TVA projects that necessitated the compulsory relocation of more than 14,000 families, only two follow up studies of the social or psychological effects on the displaced were undertaken. Both are unpublished Masters theses. Longitudinal cultural, behavioral, psychological, and economic effects on human populations tend to suggest a wide range of mixed results, for example, increased stress and alcoholism on one hand and new employment opportunities and housing on the other. These are some of the issues that are addressed in The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through Two Generations, a diachronic assessment of the 1964 relocation of Seneca peoples from federally-granted lands in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New York.

Background: Context and Previous Research

Before proceeding, let me provide some background to translation, synonymy and orthography. Bilharz uses the term "Senecas" rather than Seneca and in this review I have followed her use of this form, although a number of authors do not (Abler and Tooker 1978; Fenton 1998; Hauptman 1981, 1986b; Kolb 1981; Rosier 1995; Sullivan 1996; Tooker 1978). Neither does George Abrams, himself a Seneca and author of The Seneca People (1976), nor do the official federal documents (United States Congress, House 1990; United States Congress, Senate 1964, 1984, 1990, 1991). I suspect that the orthography is similar to Maya (both singular and plural), preferred by the peoples themselves to Mayas or Mayans.

Kinzua ("fish on a spear" in Seneca Iroquois language) and the dam construction--others prefer "damned" or "dammed" construction--entered American folklore and the environmental movement. This was due, in part, to song lyrics that featured the Kinzua Dam and the abrogation of federal treaties, notably "Now that the Buffalo's Gone" by Buffy Sainte-Marie and "As Long As the Grass Shall Grow" by Johnny Cash. The reservoir is still called "Lake of Perfidy" by some residents (Rosier 1995:345). A few words about synonymy; compulsory relocation, forced migration, resettlement, relocation, dislocation, involuntary migration, removal, evacuation, and similar terms have been applied to the action and results of compelling peoples to move from one physical location to another. The term relocatees is common to the literature except in Asia (particularly the Subcontinent), where the words evacuees or oustees are synonyms. In her book, Bilharz chooses to use the term dislocation as a term descriptive of the Seneca experience, while removal is the Seneca's preferred term (p. 26), but the subtitle of the volume uses the term forced relocation.

Also potentially confusing to the reader is the spelling of Allegany. The predominant spelling, Allegheny, defines the river, the Allegheny National Forest (located in Pennsylvania), and at least 108 other physical geographic or cultural names. In September 1998, the United States Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) lists Allegheny (106 entries) and Allegany (one entry--the Reservation). However, the GNIS is incomplete, since Allegany County and Allegany State Park in New York state as well as other cultural loci should also be included (see Congdon's delightful monograph [1968]). The origin of the name, from Alligewi, aboriginal connections, and sociocultural phenomena have been reviewed elsewhere (Kolb 1983).

The modern government of the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) dates to December 4, 1848. Presently, there are three landholdings in New York State, the one-mile square Oil Spring Reservation on Oil Creek, the Allegany Reservation on the upper Allegheny River, and the Cattaraugus Reservation located on the creek of the same name on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Before the Kinzua dam, the Allegany Reservation included 30,469 acres while the Catarraugus Reservation has an area of 22,013 acres. The "take area" below the 1365-foot contour line to create the dam and reservior accounted for the loss of about 10,000 acres from Allegany.

The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam emphasizes the sociocultural, behavioral, and psychological effects on the people whose lives were disrupted. The political history of the construction of the dam is characterized in two dissertations, one by Allen Lee (1959), "The Kinzua Dam Project: A Case Study of the Politics of Flood Control," and a second, authored by Roy Brant (1970), entitled "A Flood Control Dam for the Upper Allegheny River: Forty Years of Controversy." In addition, the policies and politics are documented in four enlightening journal articles appearing in Pennsylvania History (Smith 1975, 1977; Hauptman 1986a; Rosier 1995) as well as in two chapters in Hauptman's book, The Iroquois Struggle for Survival: World War II to Red Power (1986b:85-122). Diane Rothenberg's City University of New York dissertation (1976), "Friends Like These: An Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Interaction between Allegheny Senecas and Quakers, 1798-1823," covers the initial Seneca-Society of Friends contacts. An M.A. thesis in history by Hogan (1974), "A History of the Allegany Reservation: 1850-1900," documents a portion of the pre-dam era, while Lucia Mele's (1984) "The Seneca Nation of Indians and the City of Salamanca: An Analysis of the Senecas' Options for Renewal of the 99-year Leases of Salamanca," an MIT Masters thesis, covers public policy issues. "Social Integration of an Elderly Native American Population: The Allegany Seneca Elders," a Ph.D. dissertation completed at Syracuse University by Randy John (1989), assesses social and psychological effects of relocation on the older members of the Seneca Nation. Bilharz does not cite Lee's dissertation (1959) or historian Paul Rosier's excellent analysis (1995) based upon on the primary documents.

Background: The Author

The author, presently Assistant Professor of Anthropology at State University of New York College at Fredonia, teaches introductory courses in anthropology and sociology and advanced courses on gender studies and on Native Americans. Her research interests include involuntary resettlement, sex and gender, and Iroquoian studies. Bilharz's pedagogy and research relate directly to the volume being assessed. After receiving a Masters degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, she began research on the Senecas in the late 1970s while a member of the faculty of at Mercyhurst College (Erie, Pennsylvania). In the late 1980s, she moved to the SUNY College at Fredonia on the southern shore of Lake Erie approximately midway between Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo. The college is situated near the Catarraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Bilharz has been a resident in the general research area for over two decades and had also taken part in a number of anthropological research projects prior to beginning fieldwork in May 1985. She does not mention her ethnographic fieldwork in Uganda, East Africa directed by Philip Kilbride (now Professor and Chairman of Anthropology and Mary Hale Chase Chair in the Social Sciences and Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College) that provided her Third World experience. However, she does refer to comparative materials on tribal and community relocations published by the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Kampala, Uganda that she obtained at the institute in 1970. Nor does she cite her Bryn Mawr College Ph.D. dissertation in Anthropology (October 1987), written under the mentorship of the Australian and Melanesian ethnographer Jane C. Goodale (now Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Bryn Mawr). This dissertation is entitled "Ghosts of Broken Hearts and Laws: The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam" (Pennsylvania) (1988, 206 pp., University Microfilms International, 8803865) and focuses on the same topics as the book being reviewed. Indeed, this volume is a slightly emended version of that dissertation.

Funding for her fieldwork came from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, a Max Richter Fellowship from Bryn Mawr, and a Scholarly Incentive Grant from the SUNY College at Fredonia. Bilharz's early field experiences in East Africa and later fieldwork among Native Americans may remind us of the career of anthropologist Laura Thompson. Prior to her long-term research among several native peoples of the American Southwest, Thompson worked initially in Fiji (see Women in the Field, edited by Peggy Gold [1970]).

The author apparently began her research as early as 1977 when she assisted in preparing the materials on Native Americans, federal legislation, and land ownership issues for a contracted CRM (Cultural Resource Management) analysis and predictive model for the United States Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest. Her contributions appear as a chapter and appendices in Final Report to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Eastern Region: Cultural Resource Overview of the Allegheny National Forest: Warren, Elk, Forest, and McKean Counties, Pennsylvania (Wolynec, Werner, Kolb, and Kolb 1978). This and other research led ultimately to her contact with the Senecas and other Iroquois at the inauguration of the Native American Center for the Living Arts ("The Turtle") in Niagara Falls, New York in the fall of 1983 and apparently established a focus for her dissertation. The center is now closed because of a lack of funding and for other economic reasons.

The Research

In May 1985, after two years of seeking authorization and living during the summer in a tent on the Seneca Nation's Highbanks Campground, the author received permission and was granted access to unique Seneca Nation reservation records, official documents, and newsletters. She also obtained tribal authority to interview members of the Seneca Nation. However, the use of SNI enrollment records, which contain the names of Senecas who lived on or outside of reservation lands at the time of the relocation, was restricted. Therefore, the initial goal of Bilharz's fieldwork was to prepare a list of those individuals whose homes or lands were within the "take area," while a subsequent objective was to determine household composition and reconstruct the demographics of relocation (e.g., a census). The author proposed to assess the psychological, economic, and cultural effects of the results of relocation over two generations, documenting the short- and long-term consequences of the removal over a thirty-year period. Bilharz employed standard ethnographic methods: community mapping and census taking, participant observation, structured and unstructured interviews, the life history method (three brief histories were taken), documentary and archival research, etc. Notably, she did not conduct any in depth research on the religion of the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake because the Senecas made it explicit that any scientific study of this component of their culture would be regarded as a sacrilege. Likewise, respecting the lifeways and the wishes of the Senecas, the use of a formal questionnaire was "logistically unfeasible" for the dissertation (1988:11) and deemed as an inappropriate research method in the book (p. xxii).

Background: The Kinzua Dam

Why was the Kinzua Dam built in the first place? The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania initially acquired substantial parcels of land on the east and west sides of the upper Allegheny River in 1784-1785 (see Kent 1974:29-255). The history of the Cornplanter Grant in Pennsylvania and the Kinzua Dam are documented by historians Laurence Hauptman (1981:29, 180-181; 1986:85-122) and, more recently, by Paul Rosier (1995). Two anthropologists who have conducted extensive research on the Senecas, Thomas Abler and Elisabeth Tooker (1978:515, Tooker 1978:464), reported that the Kinzua Dam was built for electric power and flood control. A Bureau of Indian Affairs prerelocation study by Fuhriman (1963) provides a baseline for Bilharz's study and presents a federal agency point of view.

The politics and public policy issues surrounding the need for flood abatement on the upper Ohio River system are topics worthy of reanalysis in their own right. From 1832 through 1907, Pittsburgh endured eleven major floods, but the severe property losses as a result of the St. Patrick's Day 1936 flood enhanced the campaign to control water flow in the Monongahela and Allegheny River Basins (Smith 1975:5, 16, 23; 1977:20). Since 1908, the concept of constructing a dam on the Upper Allegheny River in order to control spring floods had been of concern to industrialists in Pittsburgh (Smith 1975, 1977; Hauptman 1986b: Rosier 1995:351-355). Pittsburgh community leaders (Richard King Mellon, H. J. Heinz, and David Lawrence, among others) and local institutions combined efforts to halt the physical deterioration of the city's central business district (Hauptman 1986a, 1986b:91-93). These "New Deal" efforts led to the federal Omnibus Flood Control Act of 1936 (Hauptman 1981).

The United States Army Corps of Engineers had become involved as a result of the federal Flood Control Act of 1924 and, by 1936, determined that thirteen reservoirs were needed--three on the Monongahela River and ten on the Allegheny River and its tributaries. The latter included dams at Tionesta, Conemaugh, and Kinzua. Not mentioned by Bilharz or these other authors was a significant and unique use of trapped spring melt runoff that was employed during the lumber and oil booms of the period 1855-1920 in western Pennsylvania. Log rafts and flat-bottomed crude oil barges were transported down the Allegheny River on man-made floods called "freshlets." Temporary timber and earthen reservoirs were constructed annually to retain snow melt runoff and were also the sites for the assembly of the log rafts and oil barges so that in the spring the release of the dammed water would help to propel the rafts downstream to sawmills and refineries. In those early days, Pittsburgh businessmen knew that "freshlets" meant "business," but as coal and coke, petroleum, glass, steel, aluminum, and chemical processing polluted the rivers, streamflow was essential to "flush" the offensive debris and odiferous effluents down the Ohio River and away from Pittsburgh (Rosier 1995:351-355). Therefore, spring floods or freshlets were no longer desirable and the maintenance of a uniform water level for flood abatement because of significant prior and potential property damage, pollution control, and as a navigation aid became paramount issues.

The construction of a dam at Kinzua on the upper Allegheny River upstream from Warren, PA on the Seneca's Cornplanter Grant was opposed by the Seneca Nation of Indians and by the State of New York (Smith 1977:10, 14, 20), and later by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. From its conception, the proposed construction was controversial because the reservoir created by the dam would flood approximately one-third of the Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians located, in the main, in New York State, and displace nearly six hundred Senecas. The Treaty of Canandaigua between the Senecas and the federal government in 1794 had "guaranteed" the Seneca Nation of Indians these lands in perpetuity. Hence, the controversy escalated among the Senecas, their supporters (among them the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends [Quakers]), the State of New York, and the United States government. George Decker (1921:39), counsel for the Senecas, had argued eloquently that the treaties made between the United States and the Senecas in 1784, 1789, and 1794 were a "social compact" and that the federal government unilaterally had "no power to dissolve it." The courts did not agree with his argument. With the coming of World War II, the Kinzua project was shelved temporarily and the planned Allegheny River Reservoir was accorded low priority by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

In the post-war period, the plans were reactivated and the Corps examined alternative scenarios for flood abatement--including the "Conewango-Cattaraugus Plan" devised by Arthur E. Morgan that would divert water from the upper Allegheny River into Lake Erie via the Conewango-Cattaraugus rivers (Morgan 1971:310-367; Smith 1977:20; Hauptman 1986b:109-112). Morgan, a hydraulic engineer for the United States Department of Agriculture, had been appointed as the first chairman of the TVA in 1933. After his retirement, he became a consultant to the Senecas on the proposed Kinzua Dam and devised several alternative plans that required fewer people be relocated. Morgan referred to the Army Corps of Engineers plan as an example of "extreme incompetence and inadequacy" (1971:326) and although his scenarios were evaluated, none were adopted.

Hauptman's (1986a, 1986b:105-122) explication of the role of General John S. Bragdon, Chief of the White House Office of Public Works Planning in the Eisenhower administration, makes fascinating reading. Bragdon served as a "buffer" between Eisenhower and critics of the project a use of military organization, strategy, and tactics. Some congressional debate centered on the relocation of the Erie and Pennsylvania railroad tracks rather than on the relocation of the Senecas themselves. The Omnibus Public Works Bill of 1957 included the construction of the dam upstream from Warren and, although the Senecas fought through the judicial system the seizure of the Cornplanter Grant and the creation of the 10,000-acre reservoir and "take area" that the dam would create in New York State, the United States Supreme Court in 1960 did not affirm their argument (Hauptman 1986b:100-104). Construction began in September 1960, with the formal ground breaking a few weeks later on October 22 and the dedication on September 16, 1966. Rosier's (1995) analysis of the primary documents, documenting the period 1936-1958, presents a balanced view of the Corps of Engineers and the Pittsburgh industrial and commercial interests but does not assess Morgan's (1971) alternatives.

The Seneca Nation of Indians was to receive $12,128,917 in reparations (Smith 1977: 20-22), but by 1964 the amount was emended to $15,000,573 (Hauptman 1986b:85-93), a sum separate from the $125 million cost of construction. Since the funds were given to SNI, not just to the residents of the Allegany Reservation, this would eventually cause some friction between the Allegany Senecas and those residing on the Catarraugus Reservation about the allocation of rehabilitation funds (p. 87). Nonetheless, the federal-Iroquois Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794 had been broken unilaterally. The mood of Congress in the late 1950s also led to the inclusion of a tribal termination clause in the reparation documents (p. 99); see also Rosier (1995:361) who writes of the congressional "termination mentality" of this era.

The Organization and Contents of the Book

Organizationally, following the acknowledgements, the volume begins with an "Introduction: Learning from the Senecas" (12 pp.), followed by seven chapters (varying in length from 11-16 pp.), and a "Conclusion." The "Bibliography" (25 pp. with 306 items the most recent is a personal communication dated 28 July 1997), and a 12-page double-column "Index" (with combined topical and proper noun entries) complete the book. There are 20 illustrations (17 black-and-white images and three line-drawn maps). The text and reference materials appear to be error free, except for a minor mistake (p. 177) in the condensed citation of two articles by Smith (1975 and 1977) for the periods 1908-1936 and 1936-1960, respectively.

The book corresponds closely with the organization and to the contents of her dissertation. Notably there are some corrections, rewriting, and emendations. The "Introduction" in this book (pp. xv-xxvi; pp. 1-17 in her dissertation) provides background on the research design and on the relocatees.

In Chapter One, "The Allegany Senecas" (pp. 1-23; pp. 18-37 in her dissertation), Bilharz presents information on the Senecas prior to the construction of the dam. Next is Chapter Two, "Involuntary Relocations: An Overview" (pp. 24-47; "Dislocation" in the dissertation, pp. 38-65) in which she provides examples of and assesses the effects of natural and human-induced dislocations. She also includes a description of the "Scudder-Colson model," scenarios about other American Indian relocations, and national trends related to dam construction. In Chapter Three, "Building Kinzua Dam: Broken Treaties" (pp. 48-73; "Broken Laws" in the dissertation, pp. 66-98), Bilharz traces the history of the concept for a dam, federal executive and congressional support, the impact of the dam upon families, planning for the relocation, and proposed rehabilitation funds. Her subsequent chapter, "The 'New Places': Broken Hearts" (pp. 74-86; paralleling the dissertation, pp. 99-114), includes a comparison of the two "Congressional towns" (Jimersontown and Steamburg), relations with non-Indians, and the application of the "Scudder-Colson model." In Chapter Five, "Making It in the Great Society" (pp. 87-110; pp. 115-147 in the dissertation), she discusses the rehabilitation funds, educational programs, economic and community development, and the threats of federal termination of the SNI. Likewise, sociocultural and behavioral adjustments to the relocation and the Southern Tier Expressway (Route 17) expansion are elaborated. This chapter is emended to include more recent events.

In Chapter Six, "The 1980s: Rebellion and Reassessment" (pp. 111-127; pp. 148-168 in her dissertation) she describes and contrasts the two Congressional settlements as "very different communities." Bilharz also considers the effect of the SNI employing more than four hundred Senecas, the effects of enhanced educational opportunities, and impacts on traditional and cultural activities. Lastly, she provides a reassessment of the removal and the effects on the Seneca political parties (People's Party, Seneca Alliance, Seneca Coalition for Change, and the emergence of the woman-oriented Sovereign Senekas). Again, there is an updating of her dissertation.

In the chapter entitled "The Legacies of Kinzua Dam" (pp. 128-139; "Ghosts" in the dissertation, pp. 169-185), Bilharz considers the thorny problem of the Salamanca leases, defeat of the referendum on casinos (May 1994), and the results of the 1996 SNI elections. She considers the peaceful and confrontational rallies (April 13 and 20 ff., 1997) over tax-free sales of gasoline and cigarettes by Indians to non-Indians, thoughts on the Governor of New York "George Custer PaTAXi Indian Hater," and taxation as a political issue in the 1998 elections. In the "Conclusion" (pp. 140-56), the author contrasts the Allegany removal with contemporary relocations (Innu-Naskapi in Labrador and Ojibway at Grassy Narrows, Ontario). She also evaluates her use of the "Scudder-Colson model" and suggests several modifications (reported below), and she discusses new political activism and gender issues.

Her database for these assessments includes information on the relocation of 160 families comprising 537 individuals (plus an additional 13 who were serving in the military for a total of 550), and 98 persons who lost most of their land as a result of the creation of the reservoir. Bilharz also notes that "26 'estates' of deceased Senecas were destroyed" (p. xx)--one assumes that "estates" connotes inherited lands. It is from these data that she generalizes and synthesizes sociocultural, psychological, and behavioral characteristics about the relocatees. Undercounts of actual or potential dislocated persons appears to be a common characteristic among the studies of displaced persons (United States Congress, Senate 1964:8) so that her accurate accounting provides a solid base from which to make assessments about the Senecas.

Three Hypotheses

Bilharz develops three hypotheses (pp. 3-5): 1) Seneca women would be more negatively affected by the forced relocation than Seneca men; 2) that the Longhouse would emerge as a political symbol of Seneca unity; and 3) the emotional trauma and stress felt by the children would coalesce in political activism after they became adults. Her analysis suggests that the initial hypothesis cannot be supported, that there is a mixed assessment about second conjecture, and that the third is demonstrated.

The influence of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) during the early 1800s resulted in the Senecas shifting from the matrilineal longhouse extended family household with matriarchal authority to nuclear family dwellings, where the men became sociopolitically and economically more powerful. Hence, women were excluded from the political realm. However, the removal in 1964 was followed closely by several other events--women gained the right to vote in 1964 and, in 1966, the prerogative to hold office in the SNI (p. 83). In addition, a Seneca Women's Awareness Group (SWAG) is exercising political influence (pp. 125, 147). Women were also critical elements in the educational system and are, once again, a focus of the family organization. The role of the removal is a key element in this matriarchal resurgence. In addition, economic and educational programs planned and executed by women are very successful. However, Bilharz notes that the most successful entrepreneurs among "Indian" men on each reservation had non-Seneca wives (p. 114). The children of these families are ineligible for enrollment in the Seneca Nation of Indians.

While the number of native speakers has declined, and the use of the Seneca language is a key element in the performance of the rituals, the younger generation of English-only speaking Senecas come to the Longhouse in increasing numbers to participate in the sacred dances. However, this has a counter effect leading to an emphasis on competitive pow-wow dancing and the fashioning of elaborate dance costumes. The cash dance prizes are often substantial.

Her third hypothesis is demonstrated. The evidence shows that the children lacked an effective way of dealing with the grief and anxieties of relocation, the Senecas concept of community was altered, and the extended family role diminished--especially the role of grandparents. A number of Senecas who were children and suffered psychological traumas during the removal have become the social and political leaders of the current generation of young adults. Some of them became active participants during the confrontations during the construction of the Southern Tier Expressway (New York State Route 17) through the Allegany Reservation and were involved in the Interstate 90 confrontation in the Catarraugus Reservation. At one point, construction equipment was "held hostage" (p. 123) and militancy on the part of some Senecas and New York State Police was avoided. The potential for major bloodshed was very real and was featured in local newspapers (the Salamanca Press, Olean Times Herald, Buffalo News, and Erie Times-News) and in the national press (The New York Times).

Bilharz characterizes Seneca sociocultural adaptations, the forging of new social networks, attempts to invigorate the native educational system, and the increased awareness and involvement with local, tribal, state, and national politics. In addition, she determines that the dam remains a "potent symbol" to the elders who regard the inundated area with an almost spiritual significance. On the other hand, the younger Senecas, many of whom were children when their families were relocated, continue to feel powerless. Often the young people regard the dam with disdain, sometimes blaming their parents for the current land shortage on the reservation, and they continue to mistrust government agents and agencies. Indeed, Bilharz states that young Senecas have an "increased distrust of federal and state governments" (p. xxiv).

After thirty years, the Kinzua Dam, and the more recent construction a 16-mile portion of the New York Southern Tier Expressway (Route 17) through the heart of the Allegany Reservation, remain as significant issues. Land ownership, rents, and taxes in the City of Salamanca, New York (also located on Seneca land) also present complex problems. Perhaps understated in the book is the serious issue of sufficient and appropriate land for the Senecas on the Allegany Reservation. The original area of 30,469 acres was diminished one-third (10,000 acres was lost to the reservoir and "take area") another one-third was assigned to the Congressional villages, and the remaining one-third is on steep hill slopes unsuitable for homes or agriculture. The new settlements, Jimersontown and Steamburg, each occupy about 300 acres (pp. 111-12), the City of Salamanca occupies a substantial area, and the expansion of the Southern Tier Expressway caused overall (by my calculation) the loss of an additional 600 acres. However, much of area from the "usable" one-third is located in the floodplain and consists of swamp and similar unsuitable land. Abler and Tooker (1978:515) characterize the two new settlements as "suburbanlike developments," but I believe that Bilharz would agree that only Jimersontown is truly suburban. Steamburg, located twelve miles away, is rural, has a declining population, and is losing SNI administrative and cultural agencies (for example, bingo games important to reservation recreation and socialization were recently transferred to Jimersontown). The construction of community buildings on each of the two reservations, failed attempts at exploiting the recreational potential of the region (a reconstructed "Iroquois village" and facilities to be modeled after the development of Williamsburg, Virginia), and the successful development of modest campsites for tourism (Highbanks Campground) are assessed.

The Scudder and Colson Hypothesis

Bilharz also proposes to use the "Scudder-Colson model" (1982) as a framework for assessment and elaborates its potential use in Chapter Two (pp. 24-47). (She is inconsistent in the reference, using Scudder and Colson or at other times the hyphenated version, Scudder-Colson.) According to the originators, the multidimensional stresses of mandated relocation include physiological, psychological, and sociocultural parameters (1982:269-271). These may include increased mortality, trauma, grief, or modified behaviors.

The use of a "Third World" agricultural societal model in a strikingly different context is one phenomenon that Bilharz also evaluates. The Scudder and Coulson construct was developed and refined by Thayer Scudder and Elizabeth Colson based upon research among the Gwembe Tonga of Zambia. Nearly 57,000 persons who resided along the Zambezi River were relocated in 1957-1958 as the result of the construction of the Kariba Dam. Scudder and Coulson state that they consider their construct to be a "hypothesis" rather than a model and proposed four stages (1982:274-275): 1) a Recruitment Stage (planning and implementation), 2) a Transition Stage (with adjustment requiring at least two years), 3) a Stage of Potential Development, and 4) the Handing Over or Incorporation Stage. They also note that some societies never reach Stages 3 or 4. Relocatees may have different responses to Stage 1--they may welcome the removal, or relocate themselves prior to being displaced, or they may actively or passively resist displacement.

In addition, Scudder and Colson stressed that there is a need to test their hypothesis by comparative long-term studies, and this is precisely what Bilharz's research contributes. In 1973, Scudder wrote that "the lesson for developers and social engineers is that compulsory resettlement is a drastic step, inevitably accompanied by a transitional period of suffering. It should be used as a development strategy only after an intelligent and exhaustive examination of alternatives has been completed" (1973:55). Although the Allegany Seneca population is about one-tenth that of the Gwembe Tonga, Bilharz's study of the Kinzua Dam relocatees elaborates and emends this statement.

She confirms the Scudder and Colson proposition (1982:277-278) that there are differential responses in the SNI government and bureaucracy versus the general Seneca population, the former adapting and adopting federal and state policies much more quickly than the general populace. Indeed, the transitions do not progress at the same rate for every person because of economic position, individual initiative, and psychological stresses, among other factors. In addition, relocatees who had higher incomes and better local or national standing had a better chance of influencing local government policies and of becoming entrepreneurs. Likewise, Scudder and Colson (1982:283) anticipated modification in religious ritual, and the changes in the Seneca Longhouse ceremonies are significant. Bilharz suggests eliminating the distinction between Stages 1 and 2. The Seneca people and their government reached Stage 3 by the mid-1970s (p. 105).

Interestingly, the societies that Scudder and Colson (1982:283-284) cite in terms of the impact of relocation on women are patrilineal. Therefore, the Senecas present a unique case study and the author may wish to elaborate this gender issue. Likewise, comparisons with removed Japanese-American populations during World War II and more recently displaced Vietnamese are fertile areas for subsequent research.

Comparative Literature

Bilharz makes extensive use of the published literature on resettlement, citing at least 38 case studies, in the main, from Africa and North America.

Among the regions, cultures, or tribes cited are, for Subsaharan Africa: East Africa, South Africa, Nubians, Tonga Zambians, Angolan-Zambians, Ugandans, the peoples of Mali, and the Zande. For the Americas she refers to materials on "The Five Civilized Tribes," Hopi-Navajo, Sioux, Ojibwa, Japanese-Americans, U.S. migrant farm laborers, and residents of the State of Washington, as well as to several studies based on peoples in Brazil, Cuba, and Costa Rica. Among other relocation examples are the Lapps, Danish Greenlanders, Palestinians, Indians (State of Orissa), Micronesians, Bikinians, and Indonesians.

Lawson's (1982) analysis of the Missouri River Sioux from 1944-1980 is also cited by Bilharz as a parallel case (900 Indian families on five Sioux reservations were dislocated). This was a part of the Pick-Sloan plan (named for Colonel Lewis Pick and William Sloan) for the construction of the Fort Randall, Oahe, and Big Bend dams on the Missouri River that involved two states, seven tribes, and the flooding of 200,000 acres (Lawson 1982:15; Hauptman 1986b:98). The "causation" was the major flood of 1943. Michael Lawson, similar to Bilharz's treatment of the Seneca, depicts the Native Americans in a sympathetic manner and comments frequently that "the rights of tribes have been violated" (1982:15, 199). He refers to the Senecas of Pennsylvania and the Kinzua Dam "which flooded the villages where the extraordinary Iroquois prophet Handsome Lake once held forth" (1982:xxi, 199). Some social scientists have great empathy with their research group and may tread a fine line between sympathy for the subject population and what anthropologists term "going native." This term signifies that the researcher moved from the realm of a participant observer to become an active participant in the lifeways of the peoples being assessed and may lose scientific objectivity. Both Lawson and Bilharz are sympathetic to the peoples they studied but remain objective.

Additional and Future Research

Many researchers have not used adequately the published federal records in which pro and con testimonies and legal opinions are presented on the complex issues surrounding the construction of dams, reservoirs, and other water-control measures in the Ohio River drainage (United States Congress, House [Public Works and Transportation] 1982; Senate [Interior and Insular Affairs] 1964, [Indian Affairs] 1984). An exception is University of Rochester historian Paul Rosier who has mined some nuggets from the official records. Likewise, the federal documents pertaining to the City of Salamanca leases and taxation issues can be scrutinized further (United States Congress, House [Interior and Insular Affairs] 1991; Senate [Indian Affairs] 1991, [Interior and Insular Affairs] 1990). [The full citations for these appear in the References Cited in this review, not in Bilharz's book.]

There are other societal-based possibilities for research, for example, on eastern North American native peoples in Quebec, where eleven "nations" with 58 "sites" were "impacted" by hydroelectric dam constructions. Among these are four Mohawk communities (Beaulieu 1986:113-124). Likewise, in the 1950s a portion of the Tuscarora Reservation was taken by the state to provide land for a dam for a New York State Power Authority project (Tooker 1978:464), and may provide yet another research location since Ghobashy's (1961) study is now dated and provides the basis for a restudy.

The proposed Tocks Island Dam on the Delaware River (Albert 1987) offers a striking parallel to the political machinations of the construction of the Kinzua Dam but with a potentially different outcome. The "players" remain the same the United States Congress, Army Corps of Engineers, landowners and businessmen, and state and federal judicial systems but with environmentalists now gaining a role. The construction of this flood abatement project was suggested after a major flood caused damage in Philadelphia and nearby New Jersey in 1955. The dam was authorized in 1962 but was deauthorized in 1987 after the river became a unit of the National System of Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1986; the project is currently deferred until after the year 2000. Richard Albert writes that the project is a "graphic episode in our conservation history" (1987:ix) but, nonetheless, the specter of reauthorization remains.

Perhaps the Kinzua experience is having an effect on the Delaware River project. There are a series of related issues in the Tocks Island project; for example: what have we really learned from the Seneca-Kinzua experience, what are the differences between Senecas being relocated as compared to Anglos, are there racial/ethnic/social issues? Have we become more sensitized to environmental issues (both the natural and cultural ecologies), and have the judicial safeguards prevented the abrogation of treaties without due process and rightful compensation?

In East Africa, the "social characteristics" of persons relocated by the damming of the Tana River in Kenya were studied by E. Muga (Odingo, editor, 1979:151-160). He might have employed the Scudder and Colson hypothesis but did not. Numerous dam construction projects in the Asian Subcontinent have resulted in a number of sociological studies of the effects of government relocation policies and community responses in Vijajali and New Chandavadi (for example, see Sawant 1985:28-151).

Beginning in 1948, the infamous Hirakud Dam project in the State of Orissa, India, displaced 249 villages with 22,144 families (Baboo 1992, Thukral 1992:29-54). The construction of the Sadar Sarovar Dam beginning in 1960 caused the destruction of 248 villages and relocation of 66,675 persons, while the Tehri Dam project initiated in 1978 resulted in the displacement of 4,250 families from 97 villages (Singh 1992:31-147). Baboo (1992:143-144, 148) commented that Hirakud Dam "failed to achieve the objectives" of its designers and that the "social costs were the least attended to." Verghese (1994:104-108), writing about government policy, politics, and economics related to the Tehri and Narmada projects, observed that minimal attention had been paid to rehabilitation and resettlement. None of these analyses used the Scudder and Colson construct but Baboo (1992:13, Chart I) has created "A Typology of Displacement and Rehabilitation" in which Self/Group, Government, and Other Agencies are variables. In comparing these Subcontinent relocation studies with Bilharz's Allegany Seneca analysis, the former are more statistically oriented perhaps a reflection of social scientist as economist rather than social scientist as ethnographer.

In the Peoples' Republic of China, the Yangtze River Three Gorges Project, would create the world's largest dam, submerging 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,352 villages, requiring the resettlement of at least 1.9 million people (Qing, compiler, Thibodeau and Williams, editors, 1998). This undertaking has proponents writing in The Three Gorges Project (Beijing Review 1992:64-73) and detractors publishing in Megaproject (Luk and Whitney, editors, 1993). The authors of three chapters in the latter volume concluded that the project should not move forward (1993:110-20, 176-84, 185-95). They cite problems of investment and cost escalation, flood control disadvantages outweighing advantages, silting behind the dam face, "poor" hydroelectric power output, environmental effects on the river delta, and safety concerns (rockfalls, landslides, and earthquakes). Nonetheless, this megadam project is underway but was mitigated by recent events. During the month of August 1998, the worst flooding in more than forty years (perhaps in this century) in central and northeast China have already destroyed billions of dollars in crops and more than eight million homes in 74,000 villages. In addition, at least two million flood refugees and approximately three thousand have died (The New York Times, 31 August 1998). The effects on the Three Gorges project are yet to be determined, but floods also devastated portions of north and east India and Bangaldesh, where thirty million persons have been affected (The New York Times, 1 September 1998).

One outcome of the study of major dam projects is that the World Bank has become more sensitive to the human problems associated with forced resettlement, witness the internal report prepared by Cernea and Guggenheim (1994) for the bank's Social Policy and Resettlement Division and operational directive (World Bank 1990). However, the results are not yet clear and are mitigated by the economic and environmental climates.

Conclusions and Assessment

In the main, Bilharz's book is mostly descriptive but she also tests three hypotheses and a social-science paradigm. Some chapters are comparative, and the author employs secondary sources to provide the background materials for the sociocultural analysis she undertakes to synthesize and report. As noted, there has been a lack of in depth sociocultural analyses and very few reports published on the effects of relocation on the children of displaced Native American peoples, an issue Bilharz considers carefully.

This volume is a signal contribution to Iroquoian studies because it is the only twentieth century ethnographic community study of Seneca peoples. Likewise, there were no diachronic analyses of the effects of relocation on children until this analysis. The elders suffered significant psychological effects and increased mortality, confirming the results of studies in India. In addition, I know of no similar longitudinal research that can be used to assess the Scudder and Colson construct. Bilharz documents significant sociocultural change in Seneca society during the pre- and post-relocation eras, noting the breakdown in the sense of "community" (p. 130). Major administrative, bureaucratic, economic, and social changes have occurred some religious change is also found, particularly regarding the Longhouse and the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake. The Longhouse has, indeed, become a focus of Seneca politics and culture. During the past thirty years the younger generation has now risen to power but remembers the Cornplanter Grant and Allegany Reservation when they were children, and views the Kinzua Dam as a symbol of distrust of the federal and state governments (p. xxiv).

These young adults were sensitized by the removal and have become interested in radical politics (p. 125). Renewed ethnic pride is evident in the creation of a competitive drum (named "The Treaty of 1794"), pow-wows and traditional native dancing, and the welding together of disparate political factions as a result of the Route 17 confrontations. The "common foe" has united the Senecas of both reservations, and the social and economic differences between Allegany and Catarraugus that were growing during the 1980s are, apparently, diminishing. Educational opportunities were enhanced but, because the SNI employed so many young adults in reservation-based programs, an unanticipated result was that the high school dropout rate remains elevated. Those young Senecas who go away to college have few opportunities for employment upon their return, so that the nation is losing some of its best young people (p. 115). Therefore, more and more enrolled Senecas are leaving the reservations (p. 130). This is exacerbated by the problem of the lack of suitable reservation land noted above.

In discussing the historical background to the construction of the dam, Bilharz leans heavily upon the writings of Hauptman (1986b:85-122) and Morgan (1971:310-367), paraphrasing one or both authors. By necessity, she deviates little from the Scudder and Colson (1982:267-287) conceptual framework (see also Scudder 1973 and Mongomery, Bennett, and Scudder 1973 in which the idea is presented in terms of anthropological, e.g. cultural, ecology). Pedagogically, the books by Lawson (1982) and Bilharz are complementary, and the latter also helps to place into context several commercially-available or bootlegged video documentaries--"This Loss of Land" (WCAU-TV, Philadelphia) and "Lands of Our Ancestors"--and the film "Honorable Nations."

The University of Nebraska Press has published a substantial number of important books on Native Americans but is, perhaps, known for an emphasis on the American West and Midwest. However, during the past decade, the university's press has made an effort to expand their list in Eastern North American ethnography and ethnohistory. For example works by Richard Aquila, The Iroquois Restoration: Iroquois Diplomacy on the Colonial Frontier, 1701-175 (1997); Michael McConnell, A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724-1774 (1992); and Richard White et al., The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley and the Region of the Great Lakes (1996). Nebraska has also published a number of Francis Paul Prucha's works on United States government Indian policy and his bibliographies, initiated the American Indian Lives Series and Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians Series, and publishes The American Indian Quarterly (currently edited by Devon A. Mihesuah, Arizona State University). Bilharz's The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam is a worthy addition to Nebraska's list of publications.

Bilharz might have provided more detailed information about the relocatees and the sensitive Route 17 controversy, but her review does provide a baseline for future research among the Senecas. The acute reservation land shortage, the legal issues surrounding the Salamanca leases, tribal termination (currently in abeyance), the rise of matriarchal political power, balancing educational opportunities with employment, and the next generation of young Senecas present potential and potent research opportunities. She has the research skills and interest, and has established rapport with the Senecas to be able to continue this endeavor. Her research contributes to our understanding of contemporary Senecas, Native Americans in general, federal policies toward American Indians, the literature on forced relocation, and gender studies. Her contemporary ethnographic research will stand beside William Fenton's ethnohistoric summary, The Great Law and the Longhouse (published in March 1998). The latter work assesses the political history and culture of the Six Nations from the mid-sixteenth century to the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 the point at which Bilharz began to summarize the history of the Allegany Senecas.

Archaeologist Lynne Sullivan (1996:128), writing about the Chautauqua-Allegheny section of the southern Lake Erie Basin, commented that this region "would seem to be a natural laboratory for examining questions related to interaction spheres between the resident populations, neighboring Iroquoian groups, and the late cultures of the Upper Midwest, but it is clear that a better understanding of the Chautauqua-Allegheny area itself is needed before such problems can be meaningfully addressed." The Kinzua Dam damaged this "natural laboratory" to the extent that we may never comprehend the real picture of prehistoric Owasco and ethnohistoric Erie and Seneca culture (see also Kolb 1981). Speaking as an anthropological archaeologist, I would also like to know how Senecas of all age cohorts at the time of the removal think presently about the issue of relocating the cemetery that existed on the now inundated Cornplanter Grant (Abrams 1965). Did this act (fortunately conducted under the direction of Abrams, a Seneca anthropologist) have any cultural or behavioral effects on Seneca religious beliefs?

Many questions have been posed and many are yet to be answered but The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam provide an excellent baseline for future research.


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Citation: Charles C. Kolb. Review of Bilharz, Joy A., The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through Two Generations. H-AmIndian, H-Net Reviews. September, 1998. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2366

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