Hey, you! 😊
By now most people know of this book because of (or thanks to? ) the movie. I recommend reading the book and then watching the movie, which is why I was so glad to read it for our book club last November. And then I watched it a week later.
This is an excellent true crime book and I strongly think it should be included in every American history class. I am ashamed to say that as a history buff, I have very little knowledge about the history of Native Americans and nothing about the Osage! So for me, reading this book felt like a slap in the face and a punch in the gut.
Here is the book description:
"In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history."
I am thankful to the author, David Grann for taking his time to write this book and bring this story to the public. You can't read this book and not feel appalled and furious by the diabolical nature of this story. This book exposes a heartbreaking tale of prejudice, betrayal, greed, and let's not forget, corruption.
The pace is a bit slow, but I feel like I need a story like this to be slow so I can digest the horribleness of it.
The Osage Indians were driven from their homeland in Kansas to a rocky, reportedly worthless reservation in North East Oklahoma where they were finally left alone to live until much to everyone's surprise, the USA's largest oil deposit was discovered just under the land.
The sad part of the Osage story is that I think that they would have been completely contented just having a permanent place to live in with no one telling them to leave. But instead, Oklamaha turned out to be a poisoned gift. Due to human greed, the black gold was their downfall, and this story showed that indeed greed knows no limit.
The story is told in a very emotion-free way from the FBI point of view. It feels like a documentary but in a book format. You'd think that it would be hard to feel emotions while reading this, but in fact, it's quite chilling and moving. I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if it had been more from the POV of an Osage. I'd probably be crying from start to finish, kind if how I was while watching the movie. (I'll definitely write a review soon!)
Some of the parts of the book that marked me were first, the auction of the leases at the Million Dollar Elm. One of the highest single bid sold for nearly 2 million dollars and the total of millions collected climbed to nearly 14 million dollars. Keep in mind that this was in the 1920's. Just imagine what that is in 2023. Reading the names of the oil barons sickened me. If they were willing to pay 2 million dollars for a lease, how much do you think they made in the end? If that's the way they created their fortune, I wouldn't want any of it.
And the crazy part about this is that the Osage didn't have access to that money because the US government thought "that something had to be done" about these Osage Indians becoming so rich. They appointed them financial guardians, usually white men. That's how outsiders had access to money - that and marriage.
Second part of the book that marked me was the feeling of paranoia "the reign of terror" left the Osage. They were fearful of being out, fearful of others, - they weren't even safe in their own home! I can't ever imagine living like this. At that time, any osage was a target and time was ticking on all of them.
What I come away from reading this book is that justice was never really served for the gruesome murders of the Osage. So not only the Osage were treated in a horrific way, but there was no real punishment for it. In fact, up to now, we don't really have a clear idea of how many murders there were. So with that said, how can justice be truly given? What a sick joke!
I think the way we can honor the victims of the Osage murders and their families is by reading this book, talking about it, and watching the movie. We need to get more people talking and reacting to this, which is why I'm so glad Lily Gladstone, who grew up on a Montana Blackfeet reservation, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. I hope she wins an Oscar as well. It's a great honor for her, but again, it gets people talking about the Osage Nation.
We can't change the past, but we can always do something about the future. This is why I love history so much and why I think it's so important to read about it- you don't want to make the same mistakes again. Never again.
Book Club Questions:
Would you recommend this book to someone? Why or why not?
Do you plan to watch the movie? Why or why not?
How much did you know about this book before picking it up?
What surprised you the most about the book?
How thought-provoking did you find the book?
How did the book make you feel? Did it evoke any emotions?
Did you highlight or bookmark any passages from the book?
What was the most challenging or difficult part of the book for you to read or understand?
If there was one thing about the book you could have improved, what would it be?
Why do you think the author wrote this book and what was their purpose or goal?
How much do you think the author’s personal views or biases influenced the book and how do you feel about that?
If you could ask the author one question about this book, what would it be?
How did the author use language, tone, structure, imagery, dialogue, etc. to tell the story and create an effect on the reader?
What did you learn from the book or what did it teach you about yourself or others?
How relevant or relatable are the themes or messages of the book to your own life, or to society today?
How would you describe the book in one sentence?
Did the book inspire you to take action, change your behavior, or think differently about something?
How did the book end? Were you satisfied with the conclusion?
☀️ Amazon Links:
↳ Killers of the Flower Moon: https://amzn.to/3Hhmo2V
↳ All the Light We Cannot See: https://amzn.to/41TsWOV
↳ Lessons in Chemistry: https://amzn.to/3ShVVsw
↳ Yellowface: https://amzn.to/3SgqBdz
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