Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Subtitle:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

What was the last book you read that you literally couldn’t put down as you were so engaged with the story?  Killers of the Flower Moon is a chilling non-fiction book that reads like an action packed fiction novel.  Unfortunately the events sound fantastical, but were all too real.

Mollie Burkhart belonged to the Osage Tribe.  Originally living in the Kansas territory, her family moved to Oklahoma searching for the most barren land they could find that white settlers would not want.  In their new land, something valuable was found - oil.  As often happens, white settlers came to town and tried to take land.  Through their legal purchase of the land, the Osage tribal members had all mineral rights to the oil beneath the reservation.  Through this, they were able to amass great wealth and were millionaires in the 1920’s.  

Great wealth creates envy and many white settlers tried to find a way to obtain the wealth of the Native Americans, including marrying into families.  Mollie herself, married a white man she had fallen in love with, Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of one of the most powerful man in the area. They had two children, but then suddenly over a period of a few years all of Mollie’s sisters and her mother were systematically murdered.  Frightened, Mollie sought help from officials, but even those that tried to help them found themselves brutally murdered.  Not only Mollie’s family was targeted, but many other tribal members.  

A newly fledged Federal Bureau of Investigation run by J. Edgar Hoover decided to help solve the mystery.  Many undercover agents were sent to the area, but for every step forward they had a step back.   Was there a mole in the agency?  Who was killing Mollie’s family members and other Osage tribal members?

I could not stop reading this book.  This is definitely one of the top books I’ve read this year.  The story itself was riveting and horrifying.  I don’t want to give it away, but I’ll admit I cried with Mollie sat in the courtroom and finally realized the horror and betrayal of what had happened to her family.  It was also horrifying that the author uncovered even more than what had originally been tried by in the 1920’s.  There was a far reaching plot going on that wasn’t just the men convicted.  The deaths continued after they were gone.  The most chilling to me is that many people didn’t even think of the Osage as humans and were not concerned with their murders.

I was also riveted by the story of the Osage tribe itself.  From being forced off their land, to the slaughter of the Buffalo, to Mollie forced to go to a convent school and learn English, white settlers tried all they could to basically break and destroy the Native American people, their culture, and their heritage.  The Osage had many brave members who fought against it and tried to hold on to their people and their heritage.  Its tragedy that still has ripple effects on today’s times.  

As a Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan, I was excited to make the connection between the Indians in Little House on the Prairie to this book; it was the same Osage tribe.  

“The Osage had been assured by the U.S. government that their Kansa territory would remain their home forever, but before long they were under siege from settlers.  Among them was the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who later wrote Little House on the Prairie . . . 

Thought, in the book, the Ingallses leave the reservation under threat of being removed by soldiers, many squatters began to take the land by force.  In 1870, the Osage – expelled from their lodges, their graves plundered – agreed to sell their Kansa lands to settlers for $1.25 an acre.  Nevertheless, impatient settlers massacred several of the Osage, mutilating their bodies and scalping them.  An Indian Affairs agent said, ‘The question will suggest itself, which of these people are the savages?’”

Killers of the Flower Moon is a riveting must read non-fiction book.  Come for the mystery and suspense, but stay for the bitter true history of this country.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library – Thanks!


  1. Laura, this does sound like a riveting read! It's so sad that this story is non-fiction. I will keep this book in mind. Excellent review!

  2. Thank-you! It is non-fiction at it's finest. I've been recommending this book to people all summer.