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

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

Recently, I began researching my family’s heritage online. As it turns out, I have a fairly diverse family background. While looking at the lineage on both sides of my family, there was a mix of European bloodlines from Germany, Ireland, and England, and Native American bloodlines from the Cherokee nations. Through stories told by my mother and her family, I already knew that we had family members that were Cherokee Indian who were forced to migrate from their home land due to the Trail of Tears. Though the most Cherokee were forced to the west during the government enforced migration, my fourth great grandfather and grandmother relocated to West Virginia. Though I myself have very little Cherokee in my veins, researching my lineage has peaked my interest in learning more about the Native American culture.

While looking for new books to read last month, I opened an email that had suggested books based on others that I had purchased. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann was listed as a suggestion, so I decided to check out the description. Though the Osage nation is different from my Cherokee lineage, I became curious to learn more and quickly decided to order the book. Killers of the Flower Moon is a historical nonfiction book based on the tragic murders of the Osage Indians in the early 1900's. The book explores what is said to be the most shocking murder conspiracy in American history, yet I did not know that this occurred prior to reading this book. When I discussed this topic with others they too were unsure of the events that took place in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. Though many people were taught about the mistreatment of Native Americans throughout the nation’s history, it appears that this tragic account of the mass murder of the Osage was forgotten. Killers of the Flower Moon reveals the devastating account of how the Osage Indians came into the possession of a great fortune only to have met an unfortunate fate.

In addition to the stories of the Osage nation, readers get a glance into the lives of the criminals and law enforcement officers that were in Osage County during the mass murders in the 1900's, which became known as the Reign of Terror. Grann also explores the rise of J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Through Grann’s extensive research and use of official FBI documents, court transcripts, unpublished materials, personal accounts, interviews, and other helpful records, old and new facts and theories on the events and people of Osage County are uncovered. Though it stirs the memory of tragedy, loss, and pain, Killers of the Flower Moon reignites the memory of the victims of the Reign of Terror and bring to light the injustice that was dealt to the victims and their families.

In the early 1900’s, after the Osage were forced from their lands in Kansas to live in Oklahoma, oil was discovered in their land. Due to this discovery, many of the Osage became extremely wealthy. As noted in Killers of the Flower Moon, in 1923 alone the tribe took in more than $30 million, which is equivalent to $400 million today. Because of their growing wealth and the restrictions and sanctions applied to them by the United States government, many of the Osage were exposed to manipulation by men and women who came to their land to prey on them. Though, as evident in the book, some men and women were trustworthy, most were simply in pursuit of wealth at any cost, including murder. Killers of the Flower Moon spans from the first documented murder that began the Reign of Terror, to multiple murders and crimes that occur throughout the investigation process that took years to finally close.

One of the main FBI agents who led the investigation of the Osage murders was Tom White, a highly commendable and intelligent man. His dedication, trustworthiness, and respectful nature made me grow fond of him. Another person who I grew emotionally connected to was Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose family members were victims of the Reign of Terror. The loss of her family and the events that took place throughout her life were heartbreaking. As readers will discover, different members of her family, both victims and predators, played a dominate role in bringing an end to the Reign of Terror. Though the Reign of Terror was thought to have been solved and put to rest, it is evident through stories brought to light by Grann’s research that there were many more victims and people guilty of horrendous crimes that never received justice. The lack of justice is almost an insult to injury to the people of Osage County then and to their descendants now. Killers of the Flower Moon sheds light on the injustice and lack of respect for Native Americans, and sadly shows how money was far more valuable than human life.

Grann has a way of rewriting history to draw readers in and make them connect emotionally to the events and people of the Osage. Not only were the facts eloquently written, but the accounts of the people were personal and up front. The book offers pictures of the people who are discussed in the book, which allows readers to put faces to the many names. The extensive research and thought put into this book is impressive, certainly making it a worthwhile read. Killers of the Flower Moon would appeal to a history buff or those interested in law enforcement, but it also reaches to the masses of readers looking to read a quality book. My hope is that by reading this book others will be encouraged to learn more about the Osage nation and do more research after finishing the book. It is important for people to commemorate these events and people as more than just a piece of American history. As philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

I purchased my copy on Amazon for $17.37, see more information below:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages

  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (April 18, 2017)

  • Language: English

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