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Tuesday, 13 August 2019 15:39

Killers of the Flower Moon

Written by  Bob Serody

Killers of the Flower Moon

How do we view history? History can be a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.[1]

How true this statement is. Aside from tragic blunders and foolish missteps, history also has another side, where it tells how coming together as a civilization allows us to solve the problems that are impossible to resolve as individuals. Without civilization, could we have grown crops and gathered livestock, could we have constructed cities, developed the printing press, invented all the modes of transportation that bring us together, including space travel?

Of course, civilization has its drawbacks. Misrepresenting history can have terrible consequences when the people of one civilization think they are superior to another. We trace the origins of this feeling of superiority in an attempt to explain why we exist and how we have to endure an environment that includes all forms of misery, including the consequences of warfare, disease, and famine. To overcome an enemy, we use the rationale that we are carrying out a form of punishment in the name of a jealous deity because of a lack of respect or acknowledgement. And so we have come to embrace various forms of religious beliefs that give us a feeling of security, wealth, power, and a promise of the hereafter. It also provides us with the excuse to belittle or reject those we call misguided or inferior. Some religions exist for the sole purpose of spreading salvation or enforced conversion. These people rely on the written word by pointing to a book that supposedly documents their sacred history, but is this history real or fabricated to justify their claim of superiority?    

Killers of the Flower Moon is a book that documents a terrible history that befell the Osage Indians and describes a very dark period of our own country, where, in the 1920’s, the Osage tribe was finally relocated in the state of Oklahoma (after being forcibly displaced during the trail of tears) by the federal government. The location is called Osage County, and it happened to exist in an area rich in oil reserves. When the oil was discovered, speculators moved in and the area was subdivided into plots to be awarded to the highest bidder. The Osage Indians, who owned the headrights (since it was where they were settled), would be entitled to proceeds from the amount of crude oil extracted. The money would then be divided among members of the tribe. However, the federal government conspired with the State of Oklahoma by appointing U.S. citizens as legal guardians to control the divestment of funds and manage how these funds were to be spent by individual Osage recipients. This arrangement was subject not only to abuse, but it also led to the murders of many members of the tribe. Osage children were also forcibly removed from their families and taken to schools where they were deliberately robbed of their heritage, forced to only speak English and converted to Christianity.

The Osage were in fear of their lives as the unsolved murders of its members kept increasing. It was apparent that the investigation by law enforcement at the local and state levels was leading nowhere. The Osage finally turned to the newly formed FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. The intensive FBI investigation by field agents in Oklahoma and the eventual convictions of the perpetrators are the subject of the rest of the book. We recall having said that history is a merciless judge, and it continues to lay bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps.  What was done to the remnants of the Osage Nation who settled in Oklahoma is an example of this kind of tragedy.

The forests of oil derricks in Osage County have since vanished. The boomtowns are either abandoned or run down. The remaining descendants can visit a small museum in the town of Pawhuska, the capital of the Osage nation, or visit the graveyards of their murdered ancestors. It is now believed that the murder of Osage Indians for their headrights numbered in the hundreds. What happened here could only have occurred in an environment saturated by a combination of greed and feelings of racial superiority.

There are people in our country who continue to have these feelings, which lead to anger, a feeling of deprivation, and hate toward others. With a racially biased and corrupt president in the White House, these feelings have been encouraged with the purpose of dividing, not unifying the country. Those who support this president have been emboldened to openly support immigration policies that have separated parents and children at the southern border. We have seen an increase in hate crimes throughout the United States where mass killings take place because semiautomatic weapons can be obtained legally.

After reading Killers of the Flower Moon, I felt the need to reexamine the Declaration of Independence, which sums up the desire of Americans in the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. It means that in entering into a civil society, all men (and now women), being created equal, have certain inherent rights. In order to pursue happiness, that society should ensure a healthy life and an education that provides its entire people with an equal opportunity to be productive. This is not where we are today, because there are those (like the guardians of the Osage Indians) who do not believe in equality. They also believe that the pursuit of happiness means accumulating vast amounts of wealth at the expense of everyone else. If we allow them to continue following this path, history will certainly be a merciless judge. We must make fundamental changes to this approach or we will all perish.

[1]Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann; © 2017 – Pg. 256

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 Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local, regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.

Last modified on Sunday, 18 August 2019 20:49
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