Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI  by David Grann is a chilling and well researched narrative that delves into a dark chapter of American history. Killers of the Flower Moon is not just a captivating true crime tale; it’s a poignant reminder of the importance of uncovering hidden histories and giving voice to those who have been silenced. The book uncovers a web of conspiracy, greed, and violence that targeted the Osage Indian tribe in the early 20th century. Grann combines investigative journalism and historical storytelling to create an account that sheds light on a disturbing series of events. Grann’s narrative is as much a history of the Osage people as it is a true crime investigation.

The book focuses on the Osage Indian Nation, a tribe in Oklahoma, which became immensely prosperous after oil was discovered on their land. However, their newfound wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous individuals who saw an opportunity to exploit the Osage people. As members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances, the Osage community realized they were facing a sinister conspiracy that reached the highest levels of society. Grann takes readers on a journey through the lives of individual Osage families, highlighting their resilience, struggles, and eventual fight for justice. 

The attention to detail and Grann’s ability to reconstruct the events of the past make the reader feel like an inside witness to the injustices suffered by the Osage. One of the book’s strengths is Grann’s ability to contextualize the events within the broader historical and social context of the time. He exposes the racism and prejudice that permeated American society and the government’s complicity in failing to protect the Osage from the conspiracy. Grann’s writing prompts readers to reflect on the systemic injustices faced by Native American communities. 

Click here to find it at the Orem Library including Large Print, eAudiobook, eBook, and Kindle versions.

Killers of the Flower Moon will have a limited theater release on October 6, 2023 and with a full release of October 20, 2023 including IMAX theaters. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Di Nero and Lily Gladstone. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese.

A Short History of the Osage Indians

The Osage Indians, also known as the Osage Nation, are a Native American tribe with a rich history that spans centuries. The Osage people are believed to have originated in the Ohio Valley and later migrated westward. By the 17th century, they had settled in the areas that would become Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Group of Osage Indians posed outside the White House. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

The Osage developed a distinctive culture characterized by a mix of agricultural practices, hunting, and a semi-nomadic lifestyle. They were skilled hunters and gatherers, relying on bison and other game for sustenance. Their society was organized into clans, and they had a complex religious and ceremonial life.

Like many Native American tribes, the Osage encountered European explorers and settlers in the 17th century. They established trade relationships with French fur trappers and often found themselves caught in conflicts between European powers.

As European settlers continued to expand westward, the Osage were gradually pushed out of their ancestral lands. They faced pressure to cede territory through treaties, and by the 19th century, they were forcibly removed to a reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.

In the early 20th century, the discovery of oil on Osage lands transformed their fortunes. The tribe became incredibly wealthy, as they owned the mineral rights to the land. The Osage became some of the wealthiest individuals per capita in the world during this time.

The newfound wealth of the Osage attracted envy and greed. In the 1920s, a series of murders and mysterious deaths struck the Osage community. This led to suspicions of a conspiracy to gain control over their oil wealth, which eventually prompted federal investigations, including the involvement of the early FBI. The investigation into the Osage “Reign of Terror” highlighted the need for stronger federal protection of Native American rights. This case played a role in shaping the development of federal laws aimed at safeguarding tribal assets and interests.

Despite the challenges and tragedies they’ve faced, the Osage Nation remains resilient and continues to thrive. They’ve worked to preserve their culture, language, and traditions. The Osage Nation has a tribal government and maintains sovereignty over their lands and affairs. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Osage culture, with efforts to revive traditional practices, language, and arts. The tribe is engaged in various cultural and educational initiatives to ensure the preservation of their heritage.

Book Review by Melissa (Library Stacks Manager)