The Lingering Betrayal of the Osage Nation’s Murders: A Dark Legacy
The haunting tale of the Osage Reign of Terror, depicted in the book “Killers of the Flower Moon” and soon to be released as a film by Martin Scorsese, still lingers in the collective memory of the Osage Nation. This true story of greed, brutality, and government complicity sheds light on a dark chapter in American history.
The Osage Reign of Terror
In the 1920s, wealthy members of the Osage Nation were targeted and murdered for their money, resulting in an estimated 150 deaths. The conspirators, largely comprised of white men in positions of authority, orchestrated a criminal enterprise that spanned several years. The motives behind these murders were rooted in resentment and a desire to gain control over the Osage wealth, acquired through the mineral rights of their lands.
The Role of Guardianship
The Osage were compelled to negotiate with the federal government upon their forced relocation to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Through the Osage Allotment Act of 1906, they retained rights to the minerals found on their land. However, a legal policy known as “guardianship” was implemented, ostensibly to protect Native American lands and investments. In reality, it served as a means for non-Indigenous individuals to gain control over Osage capital and their lives.
Under guardianship, Osage citizens who were deemed “incompetent” had guardians appointed to manage their assets. This law led to the exploitation and embezzlement of Osage wealth, with many wards dying under mysterious circumstances. The guardians, who often faced little to no consequences, stood to inherit their wards’ oil royalties.
Continued Vulnerability and Exploitation
While some of the conspirators were eventually tried and sentenced to prison, the Osage people continued to face violence and exploitation. Federal policies and anti-Indigenous sentiment left them vulnerable. The killings persisted, and many Osage were forced to leave Oklahoma in search of safety and escape the violence that plagued their community.
Denial and Disrespect
Even after the truth of these murders came to light, denial and disrespect towards the Osage persisted. The families of the conspirators, survivors, and those who continued to exploit guardianship laws had to coexist, leading to tension and discord. The recent disappearance of a booklet detailing the murders from the Fairfax Library highlights the resistance to confronting this dark chapter in history.
Despite the conviction and imprisonment of some of the key conspirators, their eventual release and pardons only deepened the wounds of the Osage people. The lack of accountability and acknowledgement from the white community in the area further compounded their sense of betrayal.
The Call to Action
The forthcoming film adaptation of “Killers of the Flower Moon” opens the possibility for new conversations and a reckoning in the communities affected by this dark chapter. The Osage people’s story does not begin or end with the events portrayed in the film; it is a testament to their resilience and refusal to be defined solely as victims. By exploring and remembering spaces of loss and injustice, the Osage people invite us all to confront the legacy of betrayal and work towards a more just future.
– Shannon Toll, University of Dayton: “For the Osage Nation, the betrayal of the murders depicted in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ still lingers” ([The Conversation](https://theconversation.com/amp/for-the-osage-nation-the-betrayal-of-the-murders-depicted-in-killers-of-the-flower-moon-still-lingers-171699))
<< photo by Giang Nguyen >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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