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George Heron
Born February 22, 1919
Red House, New York
Died May 26, 2011
Salamanca, New York
Known for Leading opposition to Kinzua Dam; and organizing resettlement efforts; cultural, community, and political work
Religion Presbyterian
Children Two sons, a daughter, two step-sons, and a step-daughter
Parents Parents, David and Flora Tallchief Heron
Relatives Sisters, Inez Redeye, Mary Snow, and Ada Heron.

George D. Heron (February 22, 1919 – May 26, 2011) was president of the Seneca Nation of Indians (Seneca Nation of New York) from 1958 to 1960 and again from 1962 to 1964. In addition to his cultural and community work, he is known as a leader of the Seneca opposition to Kinzua Dam, and for his work organizing the tribal resettlement. Heron was known as a tribal historian, Seneca language linguist, and teacher.


As a young man, Heron served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, cutting trees as well as building "cabins, bridges and roads still in use" at Allegany State Park, as of 2008.[1]

Mr. Heron enlisted in the United States Navy in November of 1941 and served until his discharge in 1945. He achieved the rank of pharmacist mate first class during the war and was assigned to the United States Navy Amphibious Forces in campaigns in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.[2]

During Heron's tenure as President of the Seneca Nation of New York, tribal members strongly opposed relocation for construction of Kinzua Dam.[3]

During the early 1960s, Heron, had been instrumental in trying to persuade the U.S. government to use the Morgan Plan alternative which would have placed the Kinzua flood control dam in a different location. He made several trips to Washington D.C. and was assured assistance by President John F. Kennedy, but to no avail. Seven hundred members of the Seneca Nation were forced to sacrifice their ancestral homes and 10,000 acres of good-bottom farm land to make way for the Kinzua Dam project. A way of life was permanently destroyed.[4]
Heron led the tribe's relocation efforts,[5] and oversaw "the building of two residential communities — Jimersontown and Steamburg — with compensation received for cultural damages following the Kinzua Dam condemnation of Coldspring and a third of the reservation."[4]

To us it is more than a contract, more than a symbol;
to us the 1794 Treaty is a way of life.[6]

George Heron

He also served as treasurer and councillor for the tribe.[3][7] He was "a member of the Iroquois National Museum Board of Directors, representative to the New York State Department of Aging and leader of the Iroquois Agricultural Society,",[2] on the executive board of the National Congress of American Indians, and an elder of Jimerstown Presbyterian Church.[8] He counted anthropologist William N. Fenton and State Senator Catharine M. Young among his personal friends. "He was employed by the Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers Local #6, Buffalo, New York retiring in 1981."[9]

His "Ga Ga Hut: pinto type pole bean" variety has been sold as heirloom seeds,[10] and some of his seed corn was "submitted to Cornell University for safekeeping."[4]

He died on May 26, 2011, aged 92.[3]


NY Medal for Merit.PNG New York Medal for Merit (April 2010)


  1. Turano, Sharon (Sept. 7, 2008). "CCC Alumni Visit Allegany State Park". The Post-Journal. Jamestown, NY. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Senator honors former Seneca President". WIVB April 5, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Former Seneca president & war vet passes away
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Grabowski, Amanda (Feb. 27, 2008). "Honored Seneca Historian, Linguist, And WWII Vet, George Heron, Turns 89". Salamanca Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  5. Chris Lareau (2009-12-17). "Cornplanter, can you swim?". Allegheny Almanac. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  6. Brown, Edgar A.; edited by Jeanette Miller. "1794 Canandaigua Treaty". Ganondagan. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  7. George D. Heron obituary
  8. Michel, Christopher and Rich Place (May 28, 2011). "Friends And Family Remember George Heron". Salamanca Press. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  9. "George Heron". O'Rourke & O'Rourke Inc. Funeral Home. 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 
  10. "Native American Seeds". Appalachian Heirloom Plant Farm. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2012. 

External linksEdit

  • The Kinzua Dam controversy by Williams, Vicky, M.A., SUNY Buffalo, 2007, 58 pages. "Contains information from a 2006 original interview with George Heron."

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