When 400 Osage Indians Were The Richest People In The World.

by Daniel Russ on August 6, 2017

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Source: “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann.


At the end of the Civil War, as the US Government pushed Indians into worse and worse corners of the country, the Osage found themselves in the most auspicious condition one could imagine. The leadership made two decisions. One was that they were going to find the worse land they could find and they were going to buy the land. With the help and counsel of an attorney, they decided they would have deed to the land. They bought land that they felt they could not farm, land that was inundated with hard granite boulders, and land with little or no future. One chief said: “We should go there because the earth is rocky and infertile. And the white man won’t be able to farm there, and they’ll finally leave us alone.”


They also bought the mineral rights.


I am still reading this story and don’t now the end of it yet. But it is great example of the lengths US citizens went to screw the Native Americans out of everything they owned, and take away their identity, and replace it with a sanitized sort of middle American Methodism.

The book centers around one of the Osage family women, whose English name was Mollie. The story is told through her POV.

“By 1877, there were virtually no more American buffalo to hunt—a development hastened by the authorities who encouraged settlers to eradicate the beasts, knowing that, in the words of an army officer, “ every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.””

“In 1894, when Mollie was seven, her parents were informed that they had to enroll her in the St. Louis School, a Catholic boarding institution for girls that had been opened in Pawhuska, which was two days’ journey by wagon to the northeast. An Indian Affairs commissioner had said, “ The Indian must conform to the white man’s ways, peacefully if they will, forcibly if they must.” Mollie’s parents were warned that if they didn’t comply, the government would withhold its annuity payments, leaving the family starving. And so, one morning in March, Mollie was taken from her family and bundled into a horse-drawn wagon. As she and a driver set out toward Pawhuska, in the center of the reservation, Mollie could see Gray Horse, the seeming limit of her universe, gradually disappear until all that was visible was the smoke rising from the tops of the lodges and fading into the sky. In front of her, the prairie stretched to the horizon like an ancient seabed. There were no settlements, no souls. It was as if she’d slipped over the edge of the world and fallen, to borrow Willa Cather’s phrase, “outside man’s jurisdiction.”


White people all over the United States were transfixed by the Osage wealth. It was not just richess, it was enormous money placed upon the plate of people who for millennia never had money and never needed it. Reporters would go out with photographers and described their terra-cotta mansions, their numerous and chauffeured cars, and their white servants how they had servants. The author recounts how many of the Osage had over ten cars apiece. Papers described them as “the red millionaires and the plutocratic Osage.”

Dozens of Osage millionaires were abducted and murdered. It was the FBI that took on the cases, and it was obvious at the time that a white jury would never convict and white man for murdering an Indian. The murders were commitd just because white didn’t cotton to rich Indians. The murders were all covered up in a long string of crimes from local red necks to the mortuary to the police to Mollie Burkart’s husband.






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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diana September 5, 2017 at 1:57 am

Very sad. Sad to hear that genocide took place because people were not happy that a certain group of people, the Osage, who they regarded as less than human had finally had something good happen in their lives. Jealousy, greeed, and intense hatred toward the Osage led to a community where most knew what was happening but said nothing. Some were indirectly involved and others directly involved. Hundreds of Osage murdered for what? People who would have helped others because it was in their nature to do so. Only the government didn’t give them control over their own money. Another preconceived notion that contributed much to these crimes. So ultimately who was to blame. We has humans must look at our deficiencies and realize that we are not hear on earth to have as much fun as we can (as I hear so much is the case);instead we must help others and act on our compassion towards those less fortunate than us. If others had just spoken, or warned the Osage…instead it was a devastating tradegy fueled by humanity’s less than fine attributes. Very sorrowful event. I’m sorry to the Osage for what they had to endure.

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