top of page

A Terrifying Testimony: 'Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI'

By Ananya Roy


You must have come across posters spread on the buses and walls, plastered with the face of Leonardo di Caprio. 2023 saw the adaptation of one of the most chilling and frightful murders of the indigenous population ever to have taken place on the bloodied soil of North America. David Grann’s investigative journalism in Killers of the Flower Moon (2017) is nothing short of a masterpiece, but even to this day some mysteries remain unsolved. To the behest of the fledgling FBI back in a pre-economic depression era America, the Osage bear a preface to its birth and roots. Grann’s meticulously research-oriented and detailed account of the conspiracy against the Osage people of Oklahoma will leave you both bemused and amused. The “Osage people refer to May as the time of the flower-killing moon,” (11) sets the ball of doom and destruction in a motion of perpetual frenzy.

Killers of the Flower Moon cover
Photo: Killers of the Flower Moon / David Grann, Doubleday

The Osage, an indigenous tribe of Native Americans, often called ‘the middle water people’ were residents of the states of Ohio, Mississippi. Grann’s book covers the mysterious deaths of the Osage people in innumerable numbers (so much so that the US administration was finally compelled to order investigation and closure).


The death of Minnie Smith at 27 - diagnosed with a "peculiar wasting illness’" - and Anna Brown’s dead body in a ravine in 1921 terrified their sister Mollie Burkhart. Mollie and her sisters had their names registered on the family rolls as people of the Osage Nation and hence proprietors of immense fortune and subsequent targets of potential legacy hunters, which turned their lives upside down. Mollie’s mother died a couple of weeks later, suffering from a similar unidentified wasting sickness, but at this point everyone was convinced something was severely amiss. A bomb explosion killed the third sister, Rita Smith, and her husband in 1923. Only Mollie survived to tell the story.


Trapped in a web of lies and betrayal, the Osage people had been the cause of covert and overt jealousy among the white European supremacists or the anti-indigenes. Riding on the newfound fame and wealth from the virgin lands of oil, which were formerly assumed and perceived to be arid and infertile; had been the ancestral lands of the Osage people, only for them to discover the treasure trove of wealth existing underneath. The hatred and disdain of the faction against the rise of status and power of the tribal community drove the latter into despair of death and misery. The discovery of the Osage oil reserves had turned out to beat a hundred gold rushes, such was the intensity and rapidity with which a kingdom of tribes rose to power. The Native plutocratic surge of power and constraints in trade deals was viewed negatively and interpreted viciously by the American aristocratic faction, whose profits were at odds with the Osage. Thus, what began as a series of deaths totaled only in double digits by the hasty conclusions drawn by government aids and the FBI is totaled in triple digits of brutal bestiality by researchers.


So, this November, as the world celebrates the heritage of the ancestors of America, delve deep into the crevices of racism, ideological-bone-deep prejudice, and hatred originating since generations prior in the hearts of oppressors for the original inhabitants of the earth. Killers of the Flower Moon is bound to make you question the boon and bane of capitalism and materialism; colonialism and neo-colonialism in the form of monopolic globalization; the rights of the indigenous people and the unjust treatment of genocidal ablution-purge meted out to them by the settlers.

 

About the Writer:

Ananya Roy is perpetually an anxiety-induced, silently-loud writer of contemporary, pop, and grey-cell stirring intellectually riveting topics. A student of literature, independent scholar, and virtual detective, the majority of her time is occupied by summoning the dead, spooky, and gory out of books and sites, that are further anatomically analysed to suit her lust for the uncanny and terrifying! Give her some dough and she will make you a thing, since there’s always some Halloween waiting to be decoded and decrypted 'round the corner!


bottom of page