Seneca Storytelling: Effect of the Kinzua Dam on Interpretations of Supernatural Stories


This paper analyzes supernatural lore of the Hodinöhŝyönih (Iroquois) of the Northeastern United States, specifically the Seneca people living near the Kinzua Dam. After briefly tracing the historical richness of Iroquois and Seneca stories about supernatural beings and occurrences, it offers interpretations on these stories that are pertinent to a new generation. Traditional storytellers such as the various Indigenous peoples of North America use their tales as vehicles for instruction in their communities; an important part of this instruction is maintenance and strengthening of cultural traditions within communities and families. The building of the Kinzua Dam on the Seneca Allegany Territory in the late 1960s and subsequent upheavals in the community have deepened the tradition of stories about supernatural incidents while serving as a means through which old stories have gained strength and guided those removed by the dam’s construction to overcome those tragic events.

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