We are only now beginning to understand the brutal treatment of Native Americans by white settlers. History books like to leave gory details of how much of our valuable land was acquired. Through tribal stories and diary entries of settlers, we can gain a significant understanding of the atrocities committed against these native peoples. Native disenfranchisement has been a theme of the United States and it is something we should not ignore or forget.
The following story is just a small part of the larger tale. The Osage tribe were driven off of their land and forced into Oklahoma. When a valuable resource was discovered, a dark plot to exterminate the Osage was initiated.
10. The Cessation Of The Osage Tribe
In the 1800s, the American Indian Osage tribe were forced to move off of their land in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. They were the dominant native power in the region described by missionaries as “uncommonly fierce, courageous, warlike,” meaning they had to be removed from their longtime home.
9. New Opportunity In Oklahoma
The Osage tribe found their way to the northeastern part of Oklahoma. The ground was not suitable for crops and the natives believed the settlers would leave them alone. Little did they know they were sitting on land that was rich in a resource that people kill for – oil.
The oil-rich region made Osage tribal members extremely rich.
8. Rise Of The Guardians
Tribal members were wealthy enough to start accumulating motor vehicles and mansions. The government stepped in and assigned “guardians” to help the natives spend their money. It wasn’t long before Osage tribal members began to turn up dead. There were no lengthy investigations and the deaths were part of a larger conspiracy you’ll see in #7.
7. The Plot To Steal For Oil
Author David Grann describes the plot to steal the Osage oil. “This was a culture of complicity,” he said, “and it was allowed to go on for so long because so many people were part of the plot. You had lawmen, you had prosecutors, you had the reporters who wouldn’t cover it. You had oilmen who wouldn’t speak out. You had morticians who would cover up the murders when they buried the body. You had doctors who helped give poison to people.”
6. How The Conspiracy Worked
The travesty worked by having white men marry into the wealthy tribal families. It involved a level of deception never before seen in the New World. People would marry into families and begin to pick off family members one by one. Osage member Mollie Burkhart married into one of the most powerful families of settlers and a plot was put into motion.
5. One By One
Each time a family member was killed, the chances of acquiring more and more wealth from the Osage family increased. In 1921, Mollie’s sister vanished. Her body was discovered in a ravine and was largely decomposed. They noticed a gunshot in the back of her head citing foul play. And it only got worse from there as you’ll see in #4.
4. Mollie’s Family Is Targeted
A few weeks later, Mollie’s mother fell ill. Her health deteriorated quite quickly. A couple of months later, she was gone. There was strong evidence that her mother had been poisoned. Grieving over the recent loss of her mother, Mollie was in bed with her husband when they heard a powerful explosion near another sister’s house.
3. Federal “Intervention”
Nearly everyone who tried to investigate the murders wound up dead. Because Mollie was of native descent, her requests for investigations went ignored. Many lawmen and lawyers were paid off by the perpetrators. The Osage tribe issued a tribal resolution to push for federal intervention and the early version of the FBI, the Bureau of Investigation, stepped in.
2. The Evidence
In an effort to push the investigation through, the bureau ignored a lot of the unsolved crimes. Amongst the papers of the guardians, there was a booklet containing a list of guardians and the Osage members they were in charge of. Next to many of the names were the words “dead, dead, dead…” Find out the sinister reasons in #1.
1. A Ledger Of Murder
The list of Osage members who had died appeared to be more like a murder ledger. It was impossible for these tribal members to perish over such a short period of time. The Osage were healthy with modern healthcare. When the individual cases were looked into, the wealth of the dead went into the pockets of individual settlers and a vulgar murder campaign was uncovered.
In any investigation, it helps to just follow the money to understand the motive of most plots. Only then you will get an idea of who benefitted from the crimes and who stood to gain the most. The Bureau of Investigation was obviously not interested in solving these heinous crimes and wanted to get the Osage off of their backs. It is one story in a larger conspiracy to drive Native Americans off of their land so settlers could exploit the valuable resources.
These stories tend to miss making it into the history books and it is a dark portion of American history that contributed to our meteoric rise onto the world stage.