Mollie knew that her sister, Anna, was an alcoholic, but even at her worst, she didn’t deserve to be murdered. Nevertheless, she ended up being shot and her body thrown into a ravine. Of course, they couldn’t find the bullet so that they could investigate the case. Nothing was ever solved when it came to the Osage Indians. Soon after, Mollie’s mother, Lizzie, came down with the mysterious wasting disease that seemed to be moving through the tribe.
The federal government had moved the Osage off their ancestral lands not once, but twice. Finally, they moved the whole nation onto the hardscrabble hills of Oklahoma, where they could no longer farm or raise cattle. The tribal leaders were smart enough to retain the mineral rights to the land, and before long, they struck oil—and again, and again. Soon the Osage tribe was the wealthiest group of people in North America.
Each member had a “headright” or share of the profit that could be inherited by their descendants. The federal government didn’t think that the Osage could responsibly manage their own money, so they appointed white guardians over adult people. White men began to marry into the tribe; Indians began to disappear.
Eventually, J. Edgar Hoover sent agents from the new Federal Bureau of Investigation to Oklahoma. One of them, Tom White, was actually an honest man who worked hard to find answers, but when agents started to put the clues together, they started to die off, too. Eventually, White was able to put the culprits behind bars. Years later, author David Grann visited the descendants of the victims, and there were still many secrets that remained buried.
This is the new teen edition of the famous adult story, although it is certainly complex! It is grievous to read of the extensive miscarriage of justice that continued year after year. Even after people were convicted, the sentences were ridiculously short, as if, as one tribe member put it, they were convicted of animal abuse rather than human murder. Although many crimes took place, from shootings and poisonings to house explosions, none of the descriptions are gruesome, making it appropriate for younger readers. My biggest complaint was that there were so many characters that I couldn’t keep track, so I will let you know what I missed until I was almost finished: there is a Who’s Who in the back of the book, along with a glossary, notes, and an index.
Perfect for true crime aficionados, as well as lovers of American and indigenous history. Martin Scorsese is directing a film based on the book, starring Leo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, which will be released in November, 2022.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.