Just over a century ago, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. In this amazing book, David Grann presents the results of his exhaustive research into one of the most horrific and shameful eras in U.S. history: the “Reign of Terror” as the Osage began to be killed off for their land (and the incredible wealth they achieved due to the oil underneath their land). It’s a chilling, riveting piece of nonfiction – and it reads like fiction.
As the U.S. government was inclined to do, they shoved the Osage onto a godforsaken piece of land in the corner of Oklahoma, unaware that whoever had the rights to the land would be rich beyond imagining. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage seemed to have it made: they bought cars and rode in them with their chauffeurs, they built mansions, and they sent their children off to study in Europe.
Beginning with an isolated death here and there, it became apparent that one by one, they were being killed off. Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose story is central to the book, saw her entire family murdered: her sister was shot, her mother slowly poisoned, and then there was the firebombing. The Osage began to die in significant numbers under mysterious circumstances.
This part of Oklahoma was really one of the last bits of the Wild West, evidenced by the fact that anyone who tried to investigate the killings would themselves be murdered. J. Edgar Hoover (a truly weird little man) and his newly created F.B.I. took up the case as their first major homicide investigation and at first blundered terribly due to the rampant corruption in the early days of the Bureau. But Hoover brought in Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, who put together an undercover team who bravely worked with the Osage to reveal a deeply ingrained conspiracy.
Killers of the Flower Moon not only reveals the cold blooded murders of dozens of Osage, and lays out the horrible treatment of Native Americans that allowed the crimes to be ignored, covered up, and/or forgotten.
I found myself highlighting tons of paragraphs as I was reading…but I can’t bear to go back and retrieve them to share in my review. Seriously, this book is haunting and devastating. I admit I was relieved when my Kindle showed I was 75% of the way through but the book was done – yes, a full 25% of the book is notes, and I was ready to stop reading about the relentless horror.
It’s an incredible piece of research into a part of U.S. history that we might wish to forget – but which we should NEVER forget. Five stars, and thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.