Lake of Betrayal: The Story of Kinzua Dam

A new documentary by Paul Lamont & Scott Sackett


Allegheny River at Kinzua Ref ID No 424

Lake of Betrayal: The Story of Kinzua Dam examines the U.S. government’s taking of Native lands for dam-building and the extraordinary fight the Seneca Nation undertook to protect its sovereignty and ensure its cultural survival.

A battle played out on the national stage between 1956 and 1965 as the Senecas began a struggle unprecedented in Native American land disputes. Ten-thousand acres of treaty-protected Seneca territory became sacrificial land as the U.S. government pushed for the construction of Kinzua Dam. Arguments for the dam were couched in flood control, national defense and Cold War politics.

Behind the arguments were a hidden agenda for the development of private hydropower and political debts in the Democratic party’s 1960 bid for the White House.

 “As stated in the platform, my administration would see to it that the Government of the United States discharges its moral obligation to our first Americans….There would be no change in treaty or contractual relationships without the consent of the tribes concerned.”


Senator John F. Kennedy

Letter to Oliver LaFarge

President, Association of American Indian Affairs

October 28, 1960


The story behind Kinzua Dam goes deeper than the waters that dislocated families, destroyed homes, churches, the ceremonial Longhouse, schools and the Seneca way of life. It explores the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans and the handling of Native American policy during the post-WWII era and exposes the political manipulations at the state and federal levels that led to the betrayal of one of the nation’s oldest U.S. and Indian treaties.

Lake of Betrayal: The Story of Kinzua Dam is a 60-minute national PBS documentary from Toward Castle Films and Skipping Stone Pictures produced in association with the Center for Independent Documentary. It is intended for national broadcast during Native American Heritage Month in November 2016—fifty years after the dam went into operation and flooded the Seneca’s ancestral lands.

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About the Production Team:

Paul Lamont, Toward Castle Films, LLC
Producer, Writer, Director


Paul Lamont has produced, written and directed numerous documentary films for national and regional PBS including in/word/out, Fading in the Mist, Enduring Faith, Driven to Play, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo, Dangerous Silence, Herbert Hauptman: Portrait of a Laureate, Elbert Hubbard: An American Original and Glorious Battle: The Siege of Fort Erie. He has also worked on other PBS projects including the Emmy Award-winning documentary Honorable Nations. He is a Fellow of the PBS/CPB Producers Academy at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts and spent several years as an independent producer, 10 years as senior producer with PBS station WNED in Buffalo, New York and is again producing independently. Critics have called his work “masterful” and “works of art” with “insightful historical analysis” and “impressive direction.” He has been included in Who’s Who in the Media and Communications and Who’s Who in the East and has been recognized for his work with multiple Emmy nominations as well as awards from the CINE Awards, the Gabriel Awards, the Proclaim Awards, the Columbus Film Festival, The Chicago International Film Festival, The Silver State Documentary Film Festival, and the U.S. International Film Festival as well as several other national and international industry awards. Lamont is currently in production on the documentary film The Songpoet about Greenwich Village musician Eric Andersen.


Scott Sackett, Skipping Stone Pictures, Ltd.



Scott Sackett is a 20-year veteran of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and a collaborative partner of Toward Castle Films and the non-profit Center for Independent Documentary. Over the course of his career, he has written and produced cultural and educational programming for national and international radio and television audiences. Between 1991 and 2006, he was a member of the on-air staff at WNED/PBS in Buffalo. Among his credits are producer and program host of WNED-FM’s Morning Classics, the station’s top rated radio program; co-host and feature producer for National Public Radio’s live national broadcast of Messiah; and associate producer of the Public Radio International series Music from Chautauqua. His first foray into filmmaking was in 2004 when he produced a documentary about the Joann Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. In 2006, he founded Skipping Stone Pictures. Recent PBS production credits include Elbert Hubbard: An American Original and Glorious Battle: The Siege of Fort Erie. He is currently collaborating with Paul Lamont on several films including The Songpoet, a documentary about singer-songwriter Eric Andersen due for release in 2015.


Stephen McCarthy


Steven McCarthy is a highly regarded cinematographer whose recent credits include We Shall Remain, Anne Makepeace’s As Nutayunean – We Still Live Here, and Sousa on the Rez. Other recent productions include Henry Louis Gates Jr’s The Africans Americans: Many Rivers to Cross and David Duggan’s Your Inner Fish. His photography is featured in Ric Burns’ Death and the Civil War, Lawrence Hott’s The War of 1812, Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl, and Clinton, a four-hour biography of the 42nd president as part of American Experience’s The Presidents series in 2012.


Chana Gazit

Story Consultant

Chana Gazitis an Emmy Award-winning producer, director and writer whose films Chicago ‘68, Surviving the Dust Bowl, Meltdown at Three Mile Island, Fatal Flood, The Pill, and Test Tube Babies appeared on PBS’ “American Experience.” Additionally, her documentaries have been featured in major stand-alone series including: Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers, Slavery & the Making of America, Destination America, This Emotional Life, and Angle of Attack. Chana’s work has been honored with five Emmy Awards, multiple Emmy nominations and recognized by the Columbia Journalism Awards, the Peabody Awards, the Writer’s Guild Awards, the Sundance Film Festival, and many other industry honors.

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Brent Michael Davids


Brent Michael Davidsis a member of the Stockbridge Band of the Mohican Nation and an award-winning composer of film and concert music. Among his film credits are Living with the Land (2013), Valor’s Kids (2011), Tukuhnikivatz (2008), and The Business of Fancydancing (2002). He has also written scores for the 1920 Paramount film The Last of the Mohicans and the 1930 Native American documentary The Silent Enemy. He has been recognized with awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the Nation Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation.


Christopher Bové


An activist for education and editorial integrity, Chris Bovéis one of ten editors worldwide selected as a Council Leader for the Avid Community Advisory Council along with peers from FRONTLINE, Discovery, BBC and PBS. Chris has edited hundreds of hours of national and regional PBS content including Olmsted’s Enduring Legacy, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo, Elbert Hubbard: An American Original, Dangerous Silence, Driven to Play, Fort Niagara, Polonia,and Glorious Battle: The Siege of Fort Erie. His editing is also featured in national PBS programs The War of 1812, The Adirondacks, and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Designing America. His films have been honored at Sundance, NewFest, Winnipeg and Philadelphia Film Festivals.


As I sit still upon the stones

The river whispers flowing by,

She tells me of the graves and bones

That beneath her bed, do lie.

The Seneca’s once lived

Along the river side,

But when their land they had to give

Some had stayed, that died.

The engineers were told

To move the graves away,

But I believe our elders old

Had hidden there to stay.


–Poem by Brenda Deeghan, Seneca Elder