Killer of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI- David Grann
Oklahoma in the 1920’s was home to the richest people in the world, the members of the Osage Indian tribe. They had been pushed and herded onto a reserve in Oklahoma that was poor, stony land. Beneath the worthless surface a wealth of oil lay undiscovered. An astute part-indigenous lawyer had negotiated and kept the mineral rights to the reserve with the Osage people. When oil was discovered, they were rich.
The white oilmen and other white inhabitants of the area envied the wealth and inveigled methods of cheating or controlling what should have belonged only to the Osage. Each tribal member was assigned a white “guardian” who “managed” their wealth. The rationale depicted the Indians as a savages with no ability to administer their own fortune. In reality, many of the Osage were good investors and quite competent to look after their oil revenue. The white “guardians” were bigoted, greedy pillars of the community who plotted to take the underserved windfall from the Osage.
Killers of the Flower Moon looks at the cold-blooded murders of dozens of Osage people in the 1920’s. They were poisoned, executed gangland style, bombed in their own home, and beaten to death. Local sheriffs were disinterested in the cases and in some, the Osage family paid private investigators to try and solve the murders. They failed. Evidence disappeared or was destroyed, witnesses were too frightened to testify, or the white population all colluded in a cover-up.
Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, was eventually appointed by the FBI to head a team that could solve the murders. J. Edgar Hoover had just taken over the bureau and was eager to have a “big case” closed as soon as he could. White was, in looks, a stereotype of the Rangers. Tall, good looking and laconi; in other ways, he was his own man. He seldom used physical force or employed firearms. He believed in trying to ‘get his man’ by other means. Many Texas Rangers died in gun battles, ambush, or violent fights. This was, in many way, the end of the wild west.
David Grann has researched many documents and files which are primary and unpublished. He consulted thousands of pages of FBI files, secret grand jury testimony, court transcripts, informants’ statements, logs from private eyes, pardon and parole records, private correspondence, diary entries and more. In the end, he uncovered a much wider criminal conspiracy. The murders of the Osage started earlier than official investigators thought and many more people died by violence or poison. All these deaths were orchestrated to make sure that the ‘head right’ (mineral rights) passed from family to family member until one last person was left and controlled by one greedy “guardian.” The crimes were insidious and if David Grann had set out to write a fictional thriller, it could not have been more engaging. The sad thing is that back in the 1920’s some person or persons unknown did get away with the murders of many Osage.
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