The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

killers of the flower moon

When vast oil depositories were discovered under the rocky Oklahoma land belonging to the Osage Indian Nation, tribe members quickly became some of the richest people in the country.  As their wealth skyrocketed, they built extravagant homes, purchased fancy cars, and became the topic of incredulous news stories.  And then, in the 1920s, someone began killing Osage members who had a stake in the oil rights. 

From bullet wounds to poison to sudden explosions, the murders came one after another.  One woman saw her sister, brother-in-law, and mother all killed under suspicious circumstances.  When the death toll reached two dozen, the newly formed FBI stepped in helmed by a young J. Edgar Hoover and the Osage murders became one of its first highly publicized cases.

In The Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann illuminates the brutality of the murders, the complexities of the investigation, and the systemic racial injustice entwined in the case.

"Gray Horse was one of the reservation's older settlements. These outposts —­ including Fairfax, a larger, neighboring town of nearly fifteen hundred people, and Pawhuska, the Osage capital, with a population of more than six thousand —­ seemed like fevered visions. The streets clamored with cowboys, fortune seekers, bootleggers, soothsayers, medicine men, outlaws, U.S. marshals, New York financiers, and oil magnates. Automobiles sped along paved horse trails, the smell of fuel overwhelming the scent of the prairies. Juries of crows peered down from telephone wires. There were restaurants, advertised as cafés, and opera houses and polo grounds."

David Grann is the author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, The Lost City of Z, and The Killers of the Flower Moon.  He has also written for the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic.

Published:  2017
Length:  352 pages
Set in:  Osage County, Oklahoma, U.S.