Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Updated on August 11, 2017
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As an Early Childhood Education Consultant Jerrie had the privilege to also work with Native American tribes in OK, NY, NM, MI, and AZ

Molly Burkhart is the soul and conscience of the story

Grann wanted Killers of the Flower Moon to tell the story of the murders and the Osage Tribe based on the truth as much as possible. His journey to gather information began with a 2012 visit to the Osage Nation Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma and then across the country. The evidence backing up the historic events came from Osage Nation members (many descended from the victims), from archives and libraries, and from FBI files beginning in March 1923 when the fledgling agency became involved at the request of the Osage Tribal Council. For Grann it was important for the world to hear the story. In his part of the narration, Grann also lets readers see what the Osage Nation is like today, and what happened to all the money.

Pawhuska OK Osage Tribal Museum Visit the #Osage Tribal Museum, Library Archives in Pawhuska to learn about the #history of the tribe dating back to the 1600s.
Pawhuska OK Osage Tribal Museum Visit the #Osage Tribal Museum, Library Archives in Pawhuska to learn about the #history of the tribe dating back to the 1600s. | Source

A panoramic photograph on a wall in the museum peaked the author's interest

The 1924 photograph depicted a large group of members of the Osage Tribe posing with a local white businessman and is missing part of its left side. The Native American curator told Grann that the missing section was where the devil had been standing. The missing image was that of William K Hale a Greenville, a TX native and wealthy rancher with banking and business interests. He also had a lot of political power and was active in Osage Native Affairs at the time. It was Hale who came up with the nefarious plan to murder the Osage with Mollie Burkhart's family at its heart.


The period when the during which Tribal members were murdered was called 'the reign of terror’

Under the Osage Allotment Act of 1906, sub surface minerals on the Osage Nation Reservation were owned by the tribe and held in trust by the U.S. government. Royalties were paid to the tribe who passed on one share or headright to each person. Headrights, being hereditary, went to a deceased tribal member's legal heir(s), and therefore a person didn't have to be a member of the tribe in order to inherit. William K Hale encouraged his nephew to marry full blooded Osage Native Mollie Kyle, who had inherited her mother's three headrights after the older woman died from a suspected poisoning. Another daughter and nephew were also shot and killed in 1923, and their deaths were quickly followed by that of another daughter, her husband, and the housekeeper when their house exploded. Shortly after inheriting the massive fortune, Mollie contracted a mysterious illness that was probably poison, as well.

The period during which Tribal members died was called 'the reign of terror’
The period during which Tribal members died was called 'the reign of terror’

The trials took place between June 1926 and November 1929

Between June 1926 and November 1929, the trials of Hale and his co-conspirators took place, drawing national news and magazine coverage. The trials were rife with hung juries, overturned verdicts, and appeals. The horror of what happened to the Osage Tribal members was barely touched on. Although all of the men were convicted, only one man was given a life sentence. That wasn't Hale. But, as has been evident throughout U.S. history in regards to those convicted of crimes against indigent or Native American populations, within ten years the sentences were overturned or they were given pardons by the Oklahoma governor, even after the Osage Tribe loudly protested.

Do you think it's time to treat Native Americans, both on and off the reservations, with the dignity and respect the country stole from them?

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