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  • Writer's pictureLonnie Jeffries

Lost Waters, Broken Promises: The Oahe Dam Atrocity

In the serene valleys of the Missouri River in the 1950s, a project of monumental proportions was underway—the construction of the Oahe Dam. Promoted as a feat of engineering and progress, it promised flood control, hydroelectric power, and economic development to the region.

However, amidst the roar of machinery and the promise of progress lay a tragic tale of broken promises and lost heritage. As the concrete walls of the dam rose, so too did the waters, engulfing vast stretches of land that had been home to Native American communities for generations.


The flooding caused by the Oahe Dam submerged ancestral homelands, burial grounds, and sacred sites, displacing countless Native American families from their homes and erasing centuries of cultural heritage. Despite assurances of compensation and relocation assistance, many found themselves marginalized and forgotten, their voices drowned out by the rush of progress.


The Oahe Dam Atrocity stands as a stark reminder of the cost of so-called progress and the systemic injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples in the name of development. It is a story of loss and betrayal, of promises broken and lives forever changed by the relentless tide of progress.


Yet, amidst the devastation, there are also stories of resilience and resistance. Native American communities continue to fight for recognition of their rights, preservation of their culture, and restitution for the injustices of the past.


As the waters of the Oahe Dam continue to flow, they carry with them the echoes of a tragic history—a reminder that progress must not come at the expense of human dignity and cultural heritage. The story of the Oahe Dam Atrocity serves as a call to remember the voices silenced and the lands lost, and to strive for a future where justice and respect prevail.

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