Columns

Sins of the Father: Attacks on the Osage and their Mineral Estate

David Grann’s new book,­­ “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” vividly tells the story of how the innocent Children of the Middle Water were lied to, cheated, murdered and brutalized by neighbors, acquaintances, strangers and false friends. It took an entire network of non-Osage attorneys, judges, morticians, bankers, physicians, pharmacists, sheriffs, and every type of Indian Agent and County Official to trick and lie and steal and collude. These people, and those of the same ilk, were and are from the dark side. They appeared to be ‘fine up-right citizens’ but have black corrupt souls.

“Now when I am asked who was involved,” Grann said, “I always say, the better question is, who wasn’t?”

Grann writes that during one of his visits with Kathryn Red Corn, while she was in her tenure as director of the former Osage Tribal Museum, he noticed a photograph that spanned the entire side of the room.

“[It had been] taken at a ceremony in 1924, it was a panoramic view of members of the tribe alongside prominent local white businessmen and leaders. As I scanned the picture, I noticed that a section was missing, as if someone had taken scissors to it. I asked Red Corn what happened to that part of the photograph.”

“It’s too painful to show,” she said. He then asked why, she pointed to the blank space and said, “The devil was standing right there” … “It showed William K. Hale, staring coldly at the camera. The Osage had removed his image, not to forget the murders, as most Americans had, but because they cannot forget.” (Grann, p. 243)

Wah-Kon-Tah had provided the Wah-Zha-Zhi with food and clothes from the four legged-ones, and from those who fly and swim; He provided fruits and grains and firewood; water and sun and the moon. After the land-hungry Euro-Americans came lobbying Congress for the Osage land in Kansas and Missouri, the Wah-Zha-Zhi moved to their “last reservation.” They thought that no white man would want this land since it was poor and could not support farming. 

But then, Wah-Kon-Tah  provided for the Wah-Zha-Zhi through hydrocarbons, oil and natural gas. Of course, as soon as the E-Shta-Hey heard about it, they wanted it.

The Osage Mineral Estate is a gift from Wah-Kon-Tah  to the Wah-Zha-Zhi. There have been and are evil ones attempting to separate the Osage from their rightful, legal and moral rights to the Osage Minerals Estate. These acts are perversions, made of greed and hate. At one time, we knew little of the evil ones and their ways.  Now we know their language, their laws and their ways. We are familiar with courts of law, deeds, contracts, and when a price is bogus. I do not believe this evil can befall us again.  But it did once. It has left scars as well as memories.

I’ve visited with many Osage people who have read Grann’s book. None have gone untouched by the read. Some folks have experienced feelings of sadness, depression, and helplessness. Anger can be a part of it. Recognize your feelings, name them if you can, and know that these are normal responses to a traumatic experience. Talk with friends and family. 

Dr. Ron Shaw, Osage physician, recognizes these phenomena as a “Historic Trauma in Osages” and advises, “The murder of our people for land and money represented extremely traumatic losses for Osages.”

“These historical traumas have resulted in historical loss symptoms that we experience today, including unresolved grief, anger, shame, helplessness or depression,” he said. “These symptoms that we Osages suffer today occur because of the cross-generational transmission of historical trauma. These are historical losses that we have inherited knowledge about and carry strong feelings for, suppressed but not forgotten. Brought painfully to the surface by the “The Killers of the Flower Moon.”

I have worked professionally with Dr. Shaw in the past and know him to be a kind, knowledgeable Osage Physician who loves and cares for his people. Dr. Shaw responded immediately when I asked him to comment on these phenomena. Kathryn Red Corn told me of her conversation with Dr. Shaw which prompted me to reach out to him for readers of the Osage News.