Several months ago, thousands of Seneca Indians were forced to leave their lands in upper New York State. It was necessary, or so the Seneca and the public were told, to build a dam, the Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania, in such a way as to flood the Indians' land; it was also necessary, incidentally, to break the oldest continuously existing treaty between the United States and a foreign power, in this case the Iroquois Confederacy, one of the oldest nations on Earth. The treaty had been signed by George Washington.
In fact, none of this was necessary. The dam could easily have been built at another location, leaving the Seneca reservation intact, and accomplishing the same results in terms of power and flood control at comparable cost. But somebody's property had to be taken, and Indians are notoriously easier to exploit than other groups in our society.
As for the Seneca themselves, they responded to the affront with the utmost dignity. They held a moving ceremony at the site of the dam, a kind of funeral service for their land.
Now the Administration, through Assistant Secretary of the Interior John A. Carver, has announced its support of legislation designed to compensate the Seneca Nation for the loss of its land. The bill, which would set up a fund to "improve the economic, social and educational conditions" of the Seneca, is pathetic in its inadequacy and almost touching in its clumsy pomposity. The Seneca have been dealt a sickening injustice, which no amount of "improving" will undo. Still, one can hope that the Administration's decision to give the Seneca something resembling a fair shake in this single instance foreshadows a new, general policy of justice to the American Indian.