Librarian Reads: November 2020 Book Review and Recommendation

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Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation.  And why was that?  Because they retained the mineral rights to the lands in Oklahoma to which they had been relocated – they owned the “underground reservation” that was rich with oil during the boom times.

While to some this might seem like a really fortunate life, for the Osage it was cursed with murder, misfortune, and disaster.  And, for the United States, it was the birth of the FBI.  The “Reign of Terror,” as this time in Osage history is known, was only finally dealt with by an undercover team leading the Bureau of Investigation’s first substantial case.

The story illuminates what was possibly one of the biggest serial murder conspiracies in US history and one of the most forgotten.  From the 1910s through the 1930s hundreds of the Osage were murdered for their “headrights” – the legal grant of lands, or in this case the underground mineral rights.  At that time there were about 2,000 Osage who were registered on the tribal roll; each one of them received a headright, or their individual share in the mineral trust.  Headrights could not be sold, they could only be inherited, which made the Osage quite desirable spouses for unscrupulous persons.

At the zenith of the oil boom in Oklahoma, in the 1920s, the Osage had accumulated millions and millions of dollars, equivalent to about $400 million today.  BUT the Osage control of and access to their money was limited by restrictions imposed by the US government.  Many of the Osage were assigned guardians to oversee and supervise how the Osage spent their money.  Becoming an Osage guardian was also a desirable position that was maintained by a handful of untrustworthy people.

This is a tale of families who were being methodically whittled down in order to funnel wealth for easier access by shameless reprobates.  Reading like a novel, this book is full of intrigue, mystery, sleuthing, and human interest.  Racism against Native Americans is startling and unfortunate.  Using primary sources including both published and unpublished letters, diaries, family papers, and records from the FBI and other sources, the author paints a vivid picture.  I recommend this title to those who enjoy history, mystery, thrillers, memoirs, and just plain interesting stories.

Tina Hubert, Executive Director Six Mile Regional Library District

Killers of the Flower Moon is available from the Six Mile Regional Library District in hardback, audiobook, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.  For more information, visit elibrary.smrld.org or call 618-452-6238 ext. 730.

Ever wonder what your SMRLD librarians are reading? Well now you can follow along at smrld.org/librarianreads with some of their recommendations.

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