In Oklahoma during the1920s, oil was pouring out from the ground and the Osage were being killed. Especially the wealthy ones. The book follows events of how the Osage tribe were driven out of their homes, settled in Oklahoma, and became the richest tribe. Then it moves on to how many of them were systematically, yes, systematically, killed for their oil wealth. Then the ensuing investigation and how it tied to the founding of the FBI by J. Edgar Hoover.
The book primarily focuses on the cases related to Mollie Burkhart and her family, as well as Henry Roan. But it also provides a good historical background on the Osage tribe and how they came to own so much oil rich land. There is a lot of Western color with the oil barons, cattle rustlers, bootleggers, bank robbers and sheriffs. It also gives an overview of how the case of the Osage killings were instrumental in the birth and success of the FBI. On the FBI side, the main character and one of the few good white men in the book is Tom White, who was assigned to the Osage murder cases and was instrumental in bringing the perpetrators (some of them) to justice.
The book was infuriating to read and I wasn’t so sure I could finish it at first. It was hard to read how colonialism and white supremacy led to so much oppression, both through legal and illegal means. Maybe it is my country’s history of being colonized by basically everybody that leads me to empathize so much, or maybe I’m just a normal non shitty human being. In any case, the first part of the book made my blood pressure rise. The last part, on the other hand, when it moves to the present time and the author connects with the descendants of the victims, brought me to tears.
It is a really good book. Necessary if you are an American. On another note, I am excited to watch the upcoming film based on the book.