The concept of the Erie Canal, sometime referred to as “Clinton’s Ditch” was the vision of Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1816. The Governor wanted to connect the east to the west, or Albany with Lake Erie. The theory behind the canal system is that it would benefit not only the trading industry but also be a transport for settlers moving east. In 1817, Clinton was able to convince the state to authorize $7 million for the project. The overall construction would be 363 miles long and 40 feet deep.
Interview excerpt with Loretta Metoxen, Tribal Historian
The impact on Native country was as the settlers moved west they saw the fertile lands and then wanted to acquire those lands of the Iroquois. The canal would displace many of the tribes and their members. For the Oneidas, there was a series of 27 illegal treaties to get the land for the canal, which was probably the case for the other tribes. Ironically, it was the Erie Canal that helped transport Oneida Natives west to Canada, Wisconsin and the Kansas territory. Had the canal boat operators been required to keep logs of passengers, this would have had one more resource for genealogy research. In the past, the government just keep numbers of warriors in the records so the US government would know how many men they would have to fight. Regardless, the canal was detrimental to Native people.
Below is a picture of the what the Erie Canal looked like in the Mohawk Valley. For more information about the Erie Canal, visit http://www.nyscanals.gov/cculture/history/ for the New York State Canals.