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Littler Books cover of Killers of the Flower Moon Summary

Killers of the Flower Moon Summary, Notes, and Quotes

David Grann

2 minutes to read
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Killers of the Flower Moon: One Sentence Summary

The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. The United States' westward expansion displaced indigenous people from their homes, including the Osage.
  2. The Osage people were forced to settle in a small undesirable area in Oklahoma. However, it was discovered the land sat on one of the largest oil deposits in the country, and the tribe members became the wealthiest group of people in the country per capita by the early 1920s.
  3. The U.S. government deemed most Osage "incompetent" and put their finances under the control of white guardians.
    1. β€œMany Osage, unlike other wealthy Americans, could not spend their money as they pleased because of the federally imposed system of financial guardians.”
    2. β€œThe blackest chapter in the history of this State will be the Indian guardianship over these estates. There has been millions -- not thousands -- but millions of dollars of many of the Osages dissipated and spent by the guardians themselves.”
  4. As news spread of the Osage's wealth, white Americans in the area sought to kill the tribe members and take their fortunes.
    1. β€œA growing number of white Americans expressed alarm over the Osage's wealth -- outrage that was stoked by the press.”
  5. Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman, is married to Ernest Burkhart, a white man.
  6. Mollie's sister, Minnie, dies suddenly of a strange illness.
  7. Mollie's sister, Anna, is found shot dead in a ravine. Soon after, another Osage man was found executed in the same area.
  8. Mollie's mother, Lizzie, dies of the same illness as Minnie.
  9. Mollie's sister Rita and her husband Bill both die in their house after it explodes.
  10. Mollie knows her family is being murdered, and she might be next.
    1. Mollie's worsening diabetes condition was actually her being poisoned.
  11. Officially, 20-30 Osage Indians were murdered for their wealth from 1921-1926. This is now known as the Osage Reign of Terror.
    1. β€œThe world's richest people per capita were becoming the world's most murdered.”
  12. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Investigation arrive to probe the Osage murders, which extends beyond Mollie's family.
    1. The bureau is headed by a young J. Edgar Hoover, who wants to use the case to build the bureau's reputation.
  13. Hoover appoints a former Texas Ranger, Tom White, to lead the investigation.
    1. White's team went undercover and enlisted outlaws to aid the investigation and learn of the corruption in the Osage community.
  14. Mollie's uncle-in-law, William K. Hale, is a prominent former rancher now working as deputy sheriff. Hale has significant influence over the community, and seems to control everything and everyone, including many Osage fortunes.
  15. Investigators realize Hale orchestrated a plot to kill off Mollie's family to get their oil money. Mollie's husband Burkhart is also revealed to be in on Hale's plot the entire time.
  16. Burkhart eventually confesses after the guilt weighs on him. White confronts Hale with the evidence, and Hale is convicted and sentenced to life.
    1. β€œIt is a question in my mind whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder -- or merely cruelty to animals.”
    2. Mollie divorced Burkhart after his confession.
  17. White retires from the Bureau and becomes the warden at Hale's prison.
  18. The Bureau is now known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
  19. The author conducted extensive research -- going through archives and interviews of Osage descendants -- and found that the FBI did not solve the majority of the Osage murders and covered up its true scale.
  20. Hundreds of Osage were murdered in nearly over 20 years, not just 20-30 over five years as the official records state.
  21. β€œHistory is a merciless judge.”
  22. This tragedy is unknown to most Americans and not taught in school.
  23. Though justice can't always be obtained, "the blood cries out from the ground".

Killers of the Flower Moon: Resources