Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sleeping with the Enemy How Marriages of Economic Convenience in the 1920s Turned Murderous

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sleeping with the Enemy How Marriages of Economic Convenience in the 1920s Turned Murderous

Article excerpt

"KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON"

By David Grann

Doubleday ($28.95)

David Grann's "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI" is a very painful, but essential book in understanding American history of the same rank and nature as Dee Brown's 1970 classic, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

The basic story is that the United States moved the Osage Indian tribe out of eastern United States westward, starting in 1808. When settlers wanted their land in Kansas, they were moved into a miserable corner of northeastern Oklahoma. The supreme irony came when it turned out that the piece of Oklahoma they had been moved to, rocky and infertile as farmland, turned out to have oil under it, making the Osage rich. "Red millionaires" the others called them.

The Osage were a tribe with a proud identity and a culture, that included a language, dances, ceremonies and gods. May was the month of the flower-killing moon in the title, the month when taller plants grow taller than smaller flowering plants, in the light of a very bright moon, bringing about the death of the smaller plants. The symbolism of the whites killing the lesser Indians for their money is clear.

First, white Americans began to marry Osage women. The men who married them were called contemptuously "squaw men." Then, Osage began to turn up dead.

Some had been shot. Others had been poisoned. The lawmen and judicial authorities of Oklahoma at that time were careless and corrupt, sometimes careless because they were corrupt.

The bottom line was, first, that most of them considered the Osage to be less than human, many of them resented the fact that the Indians had been the beneficiaries of the oil found under their land, and some of them considered it acceptable that other whites carried out sharp deeds, including murder, to get their hands on as much of the Osages' wealth as they could manage. …

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