‘Lake of Betrayal’ screens

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 7:18 PM

After seats quickly filled up, the impact that a dam construction project had on the land and lives of an Indian tribe was both learned and felt at a similar rate through video and spoken word.

“Lake of Betrayal,” a film screening and discussion featuring special guests David George-Shongo, Suzanne J. Blacksnake and Stephen Gordon, the latter of which is the Seneca Nation of Indians Trustee, took place in room 107A of Compton Hall from 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

A documentary called “Lake of Betrayal: The Story of Kinzua Dam” was first played, with Shongo and Blackstone then sharing their stories afterwards. 

The beginning of the movie showed the city of Pittsburgh, before and after a 1936 flood that prompted the construction of the Kinzua Dam. 

This led to the overtaking of Seneca land that required the native people to move and therefore be assimilated into the typical American lifestyle.

Shortly after the film ended, audience members witnessed and heard the experiences of Blacksnake, who works with the Seneca Arts & Learning Center and has a speaking role in the film.

Blacksnake discussed and expanded on the meaning of the word “trauma,” which she says is “a powerful weapon” and “a human experience” that 1 in 4 people will suffer and live with the effects of. She addressed the fact that all people have and will experience it at different levels and said that she herself is no different in that regard. 

Certain parts of the film are still difficult for her to watch, and she mentioned the 7-year-old girl that still exists inside her and how, at age 64, she copes with her past. 

The sight of buildings burning, the smell and taste of smoke, and terms such as “termination” and “eminent domain,” revive emotions and trauma for Blacksnake.

“You just never knew what could happen,” she said.

She said part of her “trauma plan” was to speak at Edinboro, acknowledging that those present made her feel safe.

David George-Shongo, director of the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, spoke in the Seneca language before he addressed further intangible elements that lead to difficult circumstances, such as both emotional and financial cost — in English — throughout the rest of his speech.

A Q&A session took place until the conclusion. One question focused on how people could know how to prevent this from happening again, to which Shongo recommended visiting their museum, a topic on which he mentioned the improved implementation of the Good Neighbor policy. The policy was created in 1933 during President Roosevelt’s term and stresses the importance of peaceful relations with others, including Native Americans.

Another question focused on current U.S. President Donald Trump. Then-president John F. Kennedy’s views and actions did not improve the situation, based on the need for flood control. However, Blacksnake said that she and her people are paying close attention to, but do not trust Trump. Blacksnake addressed that “every tribe faces a threat” when it comes to concerns such as pollution and land possession, especially during his term. 

“[The Seneca tribe] are still here as a native people,” Shongo stated.

Blacksnake wants people to keep in mind that “[Traumatic experiences such as] Kinzua Dam could happen to anyone.”

Those interested in learning more can be directed to David George-Shongo at dave.shongo@sni.org, or by calling the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum at 716-945-1760.

Amber Chisholm can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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