Review of Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If there are things in your life that need to be accomplished, then you should probably not read this book, because nothing will get done. However, I did not let that deter me! This is an engrossing and disturbing tale about the systematic murders of members of the Osage tribe for their oil headrights and the money that came with them in the 1920’s. In conjunction, Grann shows how the case to solve the crimes also helped establish the FBI. He brings all of the players in this little known part of American history to life and conveys the immediacy of the fear that gripped the Osage community and the federal agents that investigated the crimes. I had a hard time putting the book down; it had the pace of a crime thriller with its twists and turns, and I learned a lot from it. For one, I did not know that the Osage had so much money– they were fantastically wealthy, and I did not know how much the government limited their rights to spend their own money. They were made to be wards under white guardianship, and this made them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The extent of the crimes against them took my breath away.

As I read this book, I felt the frustration I often feel when I read historical works: that history does not stay in the past. We like to think that the racist ideals that lead white people to brazenly commit orchestrated crimes against people of a different race are over, but as white nationalists continue to have a louder voice in this country, the attitudes that lead those to kill the Osage because they thought they were inferior still prevail. I know this is not a profound thought; we just need to turn on the news to see it is so. Sometimes I think some people think that such incidents are discrete and isolated, executed by one person at a time. Grann reveals how much of the abuse was supported by laws and many of the white community working together against the Osage. Racism of the past and racism today are not just result of people’s attitudes, but the result of the laws, policies, and codes we have in place to keep people “in their place”. People can never truly be free if the system works against them. I read a one-star review of this book (not on Goodreads), and the reviewer cited the book as something people on the Left would gobble up and criticized Grann for not providing enough “context” and for applying today’s values on the past. One might conclude that this reader thinks that racism and discrimination was/is okay and it’s only part of the Leftist agenda that it’s now wrong to kill and exploit others. This review dispirited me as we like to think (or I like to, anyway) that if we confront people with documented facts and human stories that they will understand, but some do not want to understand. They are some of those who keep history present.




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2 thoughts on “Review of Killers of the Flower Moon

  1. This book was the 2018 selection for our community-wide “One Read” program. I read it in-depth, footnotes and all because I was tasked with writing a series of articles about it for the public library where I work. I aslo attended a talk by David Grann, which included a fascinating account of his research.

    I knew about the Osage wealth, but nothing about the crimes before reading this book. I’ts one of the most memorable and chilling books I’ve ever read. I agree with you about what’s happening today.

    Here’s a link to the first article I wrote, if you or your followers are interested. There were three more published after this. https://www.columbiatribune.com/entertainmentlife/20180831/one-read-reflections-who-writes-history

    1. I read your article, and you articulated what I couldn’t— that we heard the Osage’s account of their own history, not the white-washed version. It’s a chilling insight to what we’re capable of. The levels of conspiracy and complicity is mind boggling.

      You have a very interesting job.

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