Killers of the Flower Moon

This month is not only considered non-fiction November on Bookstagram, but it is also Indigenous Peoples’ month. I don’t always follow these conventions, but my interest in Native Americans, coupled with this good peer pressure has lead me to pick up two non-fiction books about Native Americans this month.

The first book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, is a book that I plan to write about soon, but I found reading it to be such an overwhelming and stomach churning experience that I’m still kind of processing it. I’ll be back with that one soon. I hope.

killers of the flower moonThe second indigenous book I picked up this month was Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. This book covers a period of history that I knew very little about during the roaring 20s (i.e. between the WWI and the Great Depression).

The Osage Nation has been pushed further and further West by American settlers. They originally developed in the Ohio River valley, and were moved to Kansas. In the latter part of the 1800s, they were pushed (and forcibly moved) from Kansas to Oklahoma. There they bought a rocky, barren land from the Cherokee Indians, thinking that the white man would not want their land if it was unfruitful.

Then, they struck oil.

The Osage Nation became one of the wealthier groups of people to live inside US territory due to their ownership of the rights to these oil fields. The oil (just like gold and farmland in previous generations) brought white men to their land. Despite the Osage’s ownership of the land, the white men found an entry point into wealth through a system of managing and care of Osage money, treating the Osage almost as if they were children, not responsible enough to care for their own money.

Then, the Osage started dying.

After several failed local attempts to investigate the deaths, J. Edgar Hoover sent men from his new federal branch of investigators to attempt to figure out what (or who) were causing these wealthy Native Americans to die.

I Noticed . . . 

I noticed how the Osage were continually driven from where they were loving.  The white settlers even killed off all the buffalo so that the Osage (and other tribes) could not continue their traditional lifestyle. They cornered the Osage on a small piece of rocky land. Then, when the Osage got rich from the oil, they came in and tried to manage and disenfranchise the Osage from their money.

This book really exposed a dark racism, and I found it shocking. We also seldom highlight racism towards Native Americans, and we really have not made nearly as much progress with our racism towards our indigenous people groups as we have towards other people groups in our country.

I Wondered . . . 

I wondered if all the cases would ever be solved in the Osage murders. Many of these people still have lives that are touched by murders of grandparents and great-grandparents. There is still hurt and pain among the peoples, and still uncertainty as to what happened to their loved ones. Culturally there is a great deal of mistrust between the Osage nation and white people, and I wondered what it would take to heal that betrayal of trust.

It Reminded Me Of . . . 

This reminded me of the Indigenous People’s History of the United States that I read earlier this month because both books made me feel so angry at what our country did to its indigenous people. 

I was also reminded of the courtroom drama in the Louise Penny novel, Glass Houses.  The courtroom scenes were dramatic and overblown, and there was a lot of courtroom drama and corruption in Glass Houses. 

Another procedural novel that it reminded me of was Stephen King’s, The Outsider. Ralph Anderson is a careful investigator, letting the evidence lead rather than letting his own desires lead (except with a few exceptions). Tom White, the lead FBI investigator on this case was also a very careful and methodical investigator. Just like the fictional character Anderson, White was an honorable man that others would do well to emulate.

Two Excellent Quotes . . . 

I found two excellent quotes in this book, both of which pertained to Tom White and his father. Their virtue and self-sacrifice was a light in a world of selfish, greedy murderers.

White’s father was a prison warden, the Grann says this about the virtue of self-sacrifice that caused White’s father to give his life to the law.

Though it took tremendous courage and virtue to risk your life in order to protect society, such selflessness also contained, at least from the vantage point of your loved ones, a hint of cruelty.

As wonderful as his White’s commitment was, it could also be considered a cruelty to his family, especially when they faced the risk that one day White would not would not come home. At times those with great callings are not as kind to those who love them.

This second quote was a quote about what Tom White saw as the purpose of the law.

He came to see the law as a struggle to subdue the violent passions not only in others but also in oneself.

Perhaps this is definition is not far off. After all, Paul, refers to the law as a “guardian,” imprisoning the people until Christ was revealed (Galatians 3:24-25). While keeping someone within guardrails may not be the primary purpose of the law in the Christian faith, it definitely is one of the benefits of obedience to law in general.

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