Killers of the Flower Moon
David Grann
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Chapter 4

Grann takes the reader back to the time when the Osage community lived in Arkansas. President Thomas Jefferson had established a friendship with the people, but the government later forced them to give up their ancestral land. They had no option but to comply, for retaliation would make them enemies of America. Subsequently, they moved to the reservation in Kansas. Ne-kah-e-se-y, Mollie’s father, was a warrior who used to defend the tribe from attacks. Lizzie helped support her family through harvesting corn and carrying wood from long distances. The tribe valued their traditional ways, yet failing to embrace the changes brought on by white men. Settlers later came to occupy the land at the reservation, forcing the Osage community out through purchases and ruthless massacres.

The tribe bought another reservation, a place they were sure the white people would not desire. The government, on the other hand, wanted to forcibly assimilate the tribe, by killing the buffalos to end the hunting spree, and forcing them to venture into agricultural activities. The compensation money for their ancestral land also become a way of forcing them to change, with the government giving them food and clothes instead of checks. However, the people retaliated after some time, and where Wah-Ti-An-Kah, the chief, visited the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the negotiations.

Mollie’s parents got married, and the children were given Osage names. However, the names later changed to Mollie, Anna, Minnie, and Rita — while the parents became Jimmy and Lizzie. The government forced the people to take their children to school, which led to Mollie having to attend St. Louis School. Forced schooling changed the way the scholars viewed their traditions, with many embracing the white men’s method of dress and being ashamed of their traditionalist parents who could not understand English and still lived by the old ways. The government also began to introduce allotments by dividing the lands. However, the Osage tribe managed to slow the allotment process, and the land was later divided among the tribe members. The oil deposits beneath the territory were also reserved to the tribe, and the ownership rights could only be inherited. More deposits were discovered, and the people were happy, hugging each other and tossing their hats in celebration.


This chapter explores the journey of the Osage people — from their prominent eras, to the periods they lived in poverty, and to a later uprising. Initially, it seems as if the government did not consider the Osage Indians as part of the nation, which explains the attempts by Thomas Jefferson to create an alliance with the leaders of the tribe. However, the relocation of the tribe to a reservation shows the establishment of the white men’s ways and the government’s efforts to build a uniform America, a nation devoid of diversity. In most cases, white settlers are given an advantage over the Indians due to the notion of white supremacy, to the extent of massacring people from the Osage community in land disputes. The decision to inhabit the bare and infertile land shows that the tribe wanted to thrive in peace — and that they were afraid of the white people.

The government’s continued efforts of assimilating the Osage into the white man’s ways projects the racism and prejudice held by the white people, as well as their narcissistic nature of deeming their ways as ideal. This explains the forceful education of the people and the compensations made in the form of food and clothes. Furthermore, these efforts show how the government despised Indian traditions and wanted to affirm the concepts of modernity and civilization. The changing of traditional Osage names to English ones show the rate at which people were slowly accepting the new ways into their lives.

Finally, the issue of oil discovery occurred as a blessing to the tribe. But the concern of inheritance was the people’s way of ensuring that the white people would not buy or forcibly strip the Osage of their rights.

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