Starting in 1957, Saylor began voicing his strong opposition to
the construction of the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River near Warren. Styled a
"nature-loving obstructionist" by one of his congressional colleagues, he
opposed the dam because of its high cost ($120 million) and size, its debatable
effectiveness on flood control and the Army Corps of Engineers' stubborn refusal to study
alternative plans, its destruction of one of the most scenic stretches of river in
Pennsylvania, and most of all because of its breaking of the 1794 treaty with the Senecas,
the oldest federal treaty that was still in effect at that time.
[Y]our great object seems to be the security of your
remaining lands, and I have therefore, upon this point, meant to be sufficiently strong
and clear. That in the future you cannot be defrauded of your lands; that you possess the
right to sell and the right of refusing to sell your lands."
Special Collections & Archives
John P. Saylor: Conservationist In Congress
--President George Washington, Proclamation to Chief Cornplanter of the
Senecas, December 29, 1790
[T]his [Treaty of 11 November 1794] is a new and
important security against your being cheated; and shows the faithful care which the
United States now means to take for the protection of your lands."
--Timothy Pickering, personal envoy of President Washington, to the
Despite the opposition of Saylor and others, and several suits
made by the Seneca Nation against the Army Corps of Engineers, which were ultimately
dismissed by the Supreme Court, the Treaty of 1794 was broken, and construction of the
Kinzua Dam began in 1960.
The Kinzua Dam caused the complete inundation of almost 10,000
acres of Seneca lands, and rendered another 20,000 acres of their land virtually useless
because of periodic flooding caused by fluctuating water levels in the reservoir. Almost
700 members of the Seneca Nation were forced to relocate. The federal government
eventually compensated the Senecas $15 million for the land and the relocation costs.
In appreciation for his contributions to the opposition of the
Kinzua Dam, the Seneca Nation made Saylor an honorary member on 15 September 1962.
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