NPR

In The 1920s, A Community Conspired To Kill Native Americans For Their Oil Money

The Osage tribe in Oklahoma became spectacularly wealthy in the early 1900s — and then members started turning up dead. David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon describes the dark plot against them.
Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters under suspicious circumstances. Rita Smith (left) died in an explosion, Anna Brown (second from left) was shot in the head and Minnie Smith (right) died of what doctors referred to as a "peculiar wasting illness." Source: The Osage National Museum

Generations ago, the American Indian Osage tribe was forced to move. Not for the first time, white settlers pushed them off their land in the 1800s. They ended up in a rocky, infertile area in northeast Oklahoma in hopes that settlers would finally leave them alone.

As it turned out, the land they had chosen was rich in oil, and in the early 20th century members of the tribe became spectacularly wealthy. They bought cars and built mansions; they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to "help" them spend it.

And then Osage members started turning up dead.

In his new book, Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann describes how white people in the area conspired to kill Osage members in order steal their oil wealth, which could only be

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