Our book last night was Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage murders and the birth of the F.B.I. by David Grann. The Osage tribe, like so many other Native Americans, was forced off their land by white encroachment and then were forced off that land by further white settlement. Eventually, they ended up in an area of Oklahoma that was hilly and rocky and unsuitable for agriculture. But the treaty they signed gave them the land in perpetuity as well as any mineral wealth beneath it. It turned out that the land they’d been granted was sitting atop an ocean of oil. As this was at the beginning of the age of the automobile, the Osage tribe became incredibly wealthy. By the 1920s, they had the highest per capita income of any people in the United States. The federal government did not believe the individual members of the tribe were capable of managing this windfall and instituted a system of white guardianship where “responsible” men were appointed single or several members of the tribe to help them deal with the wealth. This opened the doors to corruption and theft. And then, the murders began. Tribal members were killed so their shares would pass on to their white spouses. Juries refused, largely, to convict and governors pardoned those who were found guilty. Eventually, the fledgling F.B.I. was called in to take over the case. The discussion was lively and covered, among other things, racism then and now, Bernie Madoff, and the relationship between white colonists and aboriginal peoples across the globe.
Our next meeting will be on May 23rd, 2019. The book to be discussed, The Glass Universe: how the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars by Dava Sobel, is available at the Circulation Desk. All are welcome.