Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon

by David Grann

Overview: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances. In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case.

In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Deanna Boe (06/06/18):This is an excellent book about murder, greed, and how our government turned its back on the Osage Indians in Oklahoma. Plus it shows not only how our FBI began but how J. Edgar Hoover gained control and stayed in power so long in the FBI. When one reads about the treatment of our Native Americans we have to wonder how we can still justify what exactly happened when we took control of our country and how little is written in our history books. It has been stated that history is written by the winners, and that is certainly true in our case when it comes to justifying our treatment of Native Americans.

I taught American history to Juniors, but I still find it amazing how really little I know about our total history. I knew nothing about the Osage Indians until I read this book. We are all aware how we kept moving Native Americans from certain areas to other areas and creating reservations for them. Why? We wanted what they had; for instance the rich, black fertile soil in Iowa or the gold discovered in Georgia, South Dakota and other areas of the U.S. I would imagine most of you have heard or read about the Trail of Tears when the Cherokee Indians were moved from Georgia to Oklahoma; whereas, the Osage Indians probably doesn’t click with many of you. They had been moved from Kansas to what was considered totally worthless land in Oklahoma, now known as Osage county. What could possibly be worth anything there? Bingo, if you guessed oil, you are right.

Once oil was discovered it didn’t take long for the Osage people to become some of the wealthiest people per capita in the United States. The oil companies had to lease the land and then pay dividends to the Osage tribe. Every year the payments increased. The New York weekly Outlook exclaimed “The Indians instead of starving to death….enjoys a steady income that turns bankers green with envy.” People were soon enticed by reading about this wealth and wondering how they, too, could enjoy some of it. After all, these Indians were living in mansions that had chandeliers, wore fur coats, flashed diamond rings, drove Cadillac’s and owned airplanes. Greed reared its ugly head, not only with the average person but also the American government.

Obviously it was felt they could not wisely control their own money. In many cases they were made wards of the government and someone was put in charge of their money. They were given small amounts, whereas the people in control paid themselves large payments for controlling it. Where money is involved, can murder be far behind? Obviously not, and this is what this book is about – murder and with murder the birth of the FBI. This is another overlooked sad case in our American history and if you like reading about our history, you will like this book. It has received many awards and felt to be the “book of the year.”
Rating: ****+

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