Arts & Entertainment

Book Review: Osage murders explored in 'Killers of Flower Moon'

A ravine in Osage Hills, Oklahoma, where the body of Anna Brown, a citizen of the Osage Nation, was found in May 1921. Photo: FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by writer David Grann details the murders of dozens -- if not hundreds -- of Osage Nation citizens who were targeted because of their oil royalty payments. New York Times literary critic Dwight Garner offers a review:
“Killers of the Flower Moon” describes how the Osage people were driven from their lands in Kansas onto a rocky portion of northwestern Oklahoma — out of sight, out of mind. It became apparent within a few decades, however, that immense oil deposits pooled below those Oklahoma rocks.

The Osage people became wealthy from leasing their mineral rights; so wealthy that white America, stoked by a racist and sensationalistic press, went into a moral panic, a collective puritanical shudder.

“Journalists told stories,” Grann writes, “often wildly embroidered, of Osage who discarded grand pianos on their lawns or replaced old cars with new ones after getting a flat tire.” A reporter from Harper’s Monthly Magazine wrote, ominously: “The Osage Indians are becoming so rich that something will have to be done about it.”

Something was done about it. The federal government appointed white guardians to monitor many of the Osage members’ spending habits. Even tiny purchases had to be authorized. The chicanery and graft were remarkable. Then things got worse.

Read More on the Story:
Books of The Times by Dwight Garner: The Osage Indians Struck It Rich, Then Paid the Price (The New York Times 4/12)

More from the NMAI Blog:
The Osage Murders: Oil Wealth, Betrayal and the FBI’s First Big Case (March 1, 2011)