Many of our links to the too many stories of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans in the last year had to do with pipelines. Some stories focus on the positive, but there remains plenty of negative. The only time we have noted the Osage Nation in these pages, it was under the happier circumstances of someone doing the right thing by them.
David Grann’s new book is being reviewed, and he is being interviewed, just as one of his earlier articles has become a powerhouse cinematic experience. He is our kind of sleuth, and so it is strange that we have not linked to his work before. Thanks to Theodore Ross in the New Republic for bringing this to our attention:
…In the early 1900s, the Osage were among the wealthiest people in the United States, after a large oil reservoir was discovered beneath the barren Oklahoma scrubland they had been driven to by white settlers and the federal government. Then tragedy: a string of murders, each following close on the heels of the next, as a bloody plot to separate the Osage from their money and land unfolded.
Grann tells the story of these murders, the conspirators, and the new breed of lawmen from the FBI who hunted them down. He also reveals a far worse scheme, one that encompasses America’s institutional racism and violence, and the exploitation of Native Americans…
Thanks also to Leonard Lopate at WNYC, and to the National Public Radio (USA) show Fresh Air for the attention they are providing to the history this book documents in the form of podcast conversations with the author:
DAVE DAVIES: Well, David Grann, welcome to FRESH AIR. This story begins with a woman who is really at the heart of this tale, Mollie Burkhart. Tell us a bit about her.
DAVID GRANN: Mollie is a fascinating person. She was born in the 1880s, growing up in a lodge, practicing Osage tradition, speaking Osage. And then within about 30 years because of oil deposits under her land becomes one of the wealthier people in the United States and is living in a mansion and married to a white husband, has a couple children. And she’s really somebody who is straddling not only two centuries, but in many ways two civilizations.
DAVIES: Right. And then something happens to her sister, Anna. Tell us about that.
GRANN: So her family becomes a prime target of a conspiracy. And one day in 1921, her sister, Anna Brown, disappears, and Mollie looks everywhere for her, searching along the prairie. A week later, Anna Brown’s body is found in a ravine. She’s been shot in the back of the head. And it is the first hint that Mollie’s family has become a target of this conspiracy and that her tribe has also become a target of this conspiracy…