At least sixty Osage people in Oklahoma were killed or vanished in the 1920s. Before killing them, their white killers frequently got married to their victims. The plan made them wealthy because they stood to gain a portion of the tribe’s enormous oil profits.
In 1921, the moon was low in the Oklahoman sky, causing long, unsettling shadows to sweep across Osage County’s undulating hills. Tension was in the air, with only the occasional hoot of an owl or the distant howl of a coyote to break the stillness.
A young Osage woman named Mollie Burkhart lay sprawled out on the floor of her farmhouse in the middle of this barren landscape, her lifeless eyes fixed on the ceiling. Her life had ended suddenly from a single gunshot wound to the chest, leaving a trail of unsolved questions and a terrified community in its wake.
Killers of the Flower Moon – Historical context
The Osage Nation experienced great prosperity in the 1920s due to the discovery of substantial oil reserves on their territory. The Osage people suddenly found themselves at the top of the global wealth rankings, drawing jealousy and greed from all over Oklahoma.
But this newfound prosperity wasn’t without a cost. The Osage were viewed as simple pickings because of their wealth and susceptibility to abuse and violence. The richest and full-blooded Osage people in the tribe were the targets of a vicious wave of killings that rocked the Osage community.
Killers of the Flower Moon – Central mystery
The Osage community was terrified, and the authorities were perplexed by the ruthless and efficient manner in which the murders were committed. Numerous injuries were discovered on the victims; some had been shot, some had been poisoned, and some had even been burned alive. The offenders appeared to strike and disappear without consequence, acting with complete impunity.
The once-peaceful Osage Nation was overtaken by mistrust and paranoia as fear took hold of the area. The Osage people needed more confidence in themselves, others, and even their neighbours. They were also afraid to speak up or leave their homes.
A lone man determined to bring justice to the Osage Nation emerged amid the chaos and fear. Tom White, a youthful and driven FBI agent, was tasked with looking into the killings and set out on a mission.
Killers of the Flower Moon – Victim profiles
Dozens of innocent people were killed in the Osage murders, which left a trail of broken families and unsolved questions in their wake. Some of the most well-known and revered people in the Osage Nation were among the dead; the merciless murderers saw them as ideal targets because of their wealth and power.
Mollie Burkhart: The first casualty of the infamous murder spree was Mollie Burkhart, a young and attractive Osage woman. Her young son and the stunned community were left behind when she was discovered shot to death in her farmhouse.
Anna Kyle Brown: Known for her generosity and kindness, Anna Kyle Brown was a wealthy Osage woman. Her body was covered in bullets when it was discovered dead in her house. Her murder served as a terrifying reminder to the Osage people that nobody was safe.
William Hale: One of Oklahoma’s richest men, William Hale was a formidable Osage oilman. His horrific and symbolic demise to a life characterized by both tragedy and success came when he was discovered burned alive in his car.
The community was devastated and left in a state of grief and terror as a result of these killings, which had a terrible impact. Families were divided, livelihoods were destroyed, and the Osage Nation was plunged into despair. The murders left Oklahoma in mourning, revealing the depths of human cruelty and the frailty of life.
The Osage Tribal Council petitioned the federal government for assistance after Rita and Bill Smith, along with their housekeeper Nettie Brookshire (Shonagh Smith), perished in an explosion at their home in 1923.
At this point, White was assigned to the case by the recently established Bureau of Investigation (the organization that would eventually become the FBI), and it turned into the Bureau’s first murder investigation. To gather evidence and reveal the truth—that Hale and several accomplices had planned the murders of over 20 Osage as part of a plot to profit from their deaths—White assembled a team of field agents, some of whom went undercover in the community. Among Hale’s cronies were Ernest and his
The Osage murders are a horrifying reminder of the depths of human greed and the lengths people will go to succeed financially and politically. Unanswered questions regarding these horrific crimes afflict the Osage Nation and have a long-lasting effect on the community. It is still unclear who the true murderers were and how big their network of accomplices was, even though multiple people were found guilty. Unresolved feelings of injustice arise from unanswered questions that continue to be asked and demand answers.
These unresolved problems cannot be allowed to vanish into thin air. We must continue to gather information about the Osage killings, advocate for historical accountability, and support Osage initiatives. By delving into the details of this troubling chapter in American history, we can honour the victims, support the Osage community in their healing journey, and strive toward a future in which such injustices are never perpetrated again.
There is faith despite the trauma. The Osage Nation has demonstrated that it is incredibly resilient and calm in the face of suffering. Their resounding voices have persisted throughout history, calling for justice, peacemaking, and tranquillity. They demand that the right measure of justice be meted out. Their narrative, a tribute to the human spirit’s tenacity in facing challenges, offers hope.