If you ever want to confirm your impression that middle America is populated entirely by racist whites devoid of any moral values, you need not look just at the recent presidential election. This book will prove it beyond any doubt. The Osage Indians were forced onto what was believed to be useless rocky land in Oklahoma by the U.S. government but they kept the mineral rights to their native land. When it turned out that land was sitting on top of rich oil deposits, they became incredibly wealthy. They then became the victims of hordes of white people who proceeded to steal their money in quite a number of imaginative ways. Most common was marrying an Osage then killing him or her to inherit their “head rights” to the oil revenue. One man blew up his own family including his children. Another common way was to have the Osage declared legally incompetent and to become the guardian, who of course controlled the wealth. Although there was one particularly powerful and violent man controlling a cadre of killers, virtually the entire white society in Osage County was complicit. It took corrupt bankers, undertakers, sheriffs, judges, and doctors for the murderous conspiracy to succeed and continue for decades. This book lays it out in detail. In short, the entire white society subscribed to the old saw that the only good injun was a dead injun.
The FBI was born during this time and this was then J. Edgar Hoover’s biggest case. A dedicated and competent FBI agent named White continued to pursue the case until the worst culprits were caught and convicted, but much like the Vietnam War, Hoover declared victory and closed the case, despite the fact that the killings continued to occur and that many of the worst offenders were never prosecuted or even publicly accused.
The book is a heartbreaking read as it can destroy your faith in humanity, assuming you ever had any. It’s not necessarily a fun read, nor is it particularly well-written. It is one of those duty reads we all need to make from time to time to keep ourselves grounded.