Seneca Compensation And The Injustice Of Treaty Breaking Essay

Seneca Compensation And The Injustice Of Treaty Breaking Essay

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“No evil is without its compensation. The less money, the less trouble; the less favor, the less envy. Even in those cases which put us out of wits, it is not the loss itself, but the estimate of the loss that troubles us.” In 1962, Walter Taylor wrote a lengthy letter to Clyde Robbins. This personal addition to a much larger discourse discussed the issues of Seneca compensation and the injustice of treaty breaking in the context of a contemporary controversy. The Kinzua Dam Controversy, which took place in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, resulted in the displacement of over 600 Seneca Indian families and the acquisition of a large tract of traditional Seneca land for dam building. Additionally, the acquisition of Seneca land represented a breach of “The Treaty with the Six Nations of 1794,” which explicitly prevented such action by the US Government. In turn, the dam and its construction, which primarily benefitted businesses in Pittsburg Pennsylvania, inspired a heated discussion amongst academics, local county and Seneca representatives, and even national figures, concerning the ethics of native relocation.
One such ethical concern for critics of the Kinzua Dam was that of proper and just compensation for the Seneca Nation. One legal definition of just compensation regarding the use of eminent domain is: “the full value to be paid for property taken by the government for public purposes guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: ‘…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”’ The land taken from the Seneca Nation was, however, undervalued by the United States Government. For many Native American peoples, the loss of land can be a significant cultural and psych...


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...ver, this would constitute a candidly utilitarian viewpoint.
Although the Kinzua Dam’s construction set a harmful historical precedent, the criticism surrounding it that continues today may help prevent history from repeating itself. Ultimately, the United States government should have better compensated the Seneca Nation for its loss of land which held significant cultural, natural, and even recreational value. Moreover, the United States Government’s actions, and breach of the 1794 “Treaty Between the United States of America, and the Tribes of Indians Called the Six Nations,” reflect a lack of respect for Native American sovereignty and their cultural connection to nature. If the true cost of native displacement, subsequent suffering, or even the tainting of native lands can be better understood, such actions may be prevented from occurring in the first place.

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