Vale book club examines chilling tale of murders in Osage country

VALE – “Killers of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” by David Grann, takes readers into a mysterious and tragic period in this nation’s Native American history.

The book will be discussed by the Vale Book Club this Thursday at the home of Carol Spears, 683 Cottage St. S., Vale. Lucy Hutchens will facilitate the discussion.

Grann divides his documentary tale into three parts. The first, set in the early 1920s, focuses on one particular Osage family. The members of the family begin to die under mysterious circumstances and by many unsolved murders.

At this time, members of the Osage Nation were the richest people per capita in the world. They had been forced from their original homelands and “allowed” to buy rocky and untillable land in Oklahoma. 

When oil was discovered there, it brought unexpected riches to the families but also resulted in government intervention, with guardianships imposed on “incompetent” Indians resulting in gradual inability to access their fortunes.

The second part recounts the lengthy federal investigation, initially ineffective due to corruption. It spanned many years marked by reorganization and continuing murders involving anyone who was attempting to find the source of these ongoing crimes. 

The work of an ex-Texas Ranger, Tom White, eventually brought the conviction of several people who had conspired to access much of the Osage fortune and control of the oil wells.

White organized an effective undercover team with the blessing of the federal department and utilized slowly emerging forensic techniques like fingerprinting. 

The Osage murder conspiracy, which took the lives of 24 tribal members, launched the career of J. Edgar Hoover, the fabled first and longtime director of the FBI.

In part three, the author made a series of trips to the Osage land between 2012 and 2015 to research archives and to conduct interviews with the descendants of the families affected by the murders. The descendants still speak of the conspiracy as “the Reign of Terror” and current information indicates that hundreds of Osage, not the official 24, were murdered over 20 years.

This book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, but more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. The book is riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Anyone interested in book club participation may contact Lucy Hutchens, 208-739-6954, or Marge Mitchell, 208-739-6777 for information.

The May book selection is “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion.

– Submitted by Lucy Hutchens. Review information from LitCharts and LitLovers online. 

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