Killers of the Flower Moon
David Grann
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Chapter 6

Despite the murders, wealthy oilmen such as E. W. Marland, Bill Skelly, Harry Sinclair, and Frank Phillips continue coming to Pawhuska, attending the Osage leases auction. These auctions usually occur four times in a year, and the Department of Interior oversees the activities. The locals — including Mollie, Ernest, Hale, and Mathis — also attend the auctions. Outdoor auctions occur on a hilltop in Pawhuska, under a tree known as the Million Dollar Elm. In every sale, every bid seems to surpass the previous bids and the total money collected continues to increase. The bids usually start at $500,000, climbing to higher values of up to $2 million. The Osage Indians were getting richer from the oil business, as every oil well drilled had paid off well.

Many white individuals seem outraged by Osage wealth. Their concerns are due to the press’ over-exaggerated stories about the Indians and their money, talking about their expenditures and the luxurious things they buy. The Congress also imposes further restrictions on the tribe’s financial spending by limiting how much money the guardians can withdraw for a full-blood Indian in a year. However, such prejudice is not shown over the Indian Americans, or half-bloods, as they have the power to control their own money. The restrictions seem hefty and the people, through their chief, speak out asking for financial freedom.


As noted by the author, the oil business maintains its momentum despite the numerous murders of wealthy Osage Indians. Such business cannot simply stop due to mere suspicious deaths, as there is money to be made and — more importantly — the benefits surpass the worries. As the oilmen are white, they do not expect to experience the prejudice experienced by the locals. Besides, the growing oil business and the continued increase in the value of the bids depicts the changing world where developments are creating more markets and needs for oil.

The press always acts as a means of promoting certain behaviors, and sometimes it helps put prejudices through different sentiments. Essentially, the media is making the Osage tribe look like unreasonable people who cannot control their finances, and where they often spending lavishly. The statements they use tend to paint the tribe as one that might become troublesome over time, and the self-centered white settlers cannot let the Indians thrive in peace. In response, the government instills various controls and restrictions over the financial spending of the people for it does not want them to appear to be more powerful.

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