The depth of evil and inhumanity found in “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” is so deep that it could not be fiction - no one would believe it.
David Grann is an investigative reporter, a staff writer for the New Yorker and an author. He approaches this work to tell us what happened at the turn of the 20th century to the Osage and their new-found wealth.
As always, the U.S. government kept pushing the Native Americans anywhere the white man didn’t want to live: to the most unhospitable land possible, violating treaties and promises as they did so.
In this case, the Osage ended up in the Oklahoma Territory, right on top of a vast oil field. By securing the rights to the oil through a method called “headrights,” the Osage were financially set forever - if they could keep their oil rights.
Here come the thieves, murders, imposters and liars, ready to find a way to secure for themselves the oil dollars.
Here comes Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, now an agent of the newly created FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, to try to find out who is shooting, poisoning, dynamiting and kidnapping members of the tribe as part of the theft of oil rights.
Here is Hoover wanting to use this investigation to gain power in Washington. Never mind if the result is complete or helpful to the tribe if the publicity brings him recognition.
All this history is woven into a novel setting that makes the read one you can’t put down.
Then there is today. Grann goes to the Osage lands as they now exist and encounters family after family still unsure of what happened to their grandparents, their aunts and uncles and their neighbors’ families.
The horror of history has not withered. The questions continue as to who did what.
Yet, for most of us, this is a story we have never heard. Thank goodness for Grann.
The author explained how his research began on “The PBS News Hour” on Feb. 27, 2018.
“And because the Osage had money back then because of oil, the U.S. government had given them guardians, white guardians to manage their wealth. This was a deeply racist system.
“And when I was looking through this book, I pulled a box on the guardians. I found this old logbook. And I was looking through it. I would see the name of one guardian, and I would often see, for example, five Osage whose wealth they had managed.
“If the Osage had died, somebody, some bureaucrat had just written the word dead next to their name. And I noticed, in one case, it was an Osage, and it had the word dead. The next Osage, dead. Dead, dead, dead, all five.
“And then I looked at another guardian. And I saw they had about 12 Osage whose fortunes they had overseen; 50 percent of them were dead. This defied any national death rate. And it was documents like that ... that gave you the sense of the breadth of this conspiracy.”
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2018 season is his 12th with the club and 33nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County, for the 7th consecutive year, have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March. 180 children participated last year.
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