Not Dammed Indians: The Dos Rios Dam and the Politics of Indian Removal

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

American Historical Association Annual Meeting


American Historical Association




Throughout United States history, Americans have argued that the removal of Indigenous People has been a necessary good; for states, the nation and American Indian people. In the early nineteenth century, United States Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Andrew Jackson argued for Indian removal because American Indians did not use the land productively and the United States could not protect American Indians from American citizens. After removal, they reasoned, American Indians could learn how to farm rather than hunt and escape American violence. In 1968, federal and California state officials resuscitated the language of Indian removal. California politicians proposed damming northern California’s Eel River at Dos Rios in order to control flooding, promote economic development in rural northern California, and supply water to a thirsty southern California. The proposed dam would have flooded the Round Valley Indian Reservation and forced the removal of Round Valley Indians to a new reservation. Given the history of Indian removal in the United States, dam projects in Indian Country, which had dislocated Senecas in New York, Ojibwes in Wisconsin, and the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, and state development projects in Latin America, it may have been foreordained that California would eventually build the dam and remove Indigenous People. Yet, in 1968, Round Valley Indians successfully manipulated the language of Indian Removal to gain allies in environmental groups and Governor Ronald Reagan to block the dam project. The year 1968, then, signifies a shift in Indian-American relations, when American Indians forced the United States to reject removal as a policy option.


United states; Indigenous people; Indian removal


Arts and Humanities | Indigenous Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies



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