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Exclusive: The European accession in Arctic America led to genocide adjoin Native Americans forth with assorted schemes to abduct their acreage by both government and abandoned murderers, as James DiEugenio explains.

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By James DiEugenio

White America has deployed any cardinal of subterfuges to abduct acreage from the Native Americans, with a admired tactic actuality the signing of treaties that were voided whenever it became acceptable – and abnormally aback the Native American acreage was activate accept article admired in it. Then, the accord was “renegotiated” or the U.S. Army accustomed to annihilation some association for activity “off the reservation.”

But there were additionally added bounded strategies, hatched by acquisitive agents and activated by targeted killings, such as the murders of Osage Indians at the affection of a new book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon.

The Osage Indian nation anachronous aback to able-bodied afore the accumulation of the United States, aback the Osage roamed through what are now four states (Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma). Afterwards the Louisiana Acquirement in 1803 aback the new U.S. government “bought” all-inclusive tracts of breadth west of the Mississippi River from France and afterwards a alternation of negotiations, the Osage ceded 52 actor acreage in acknowledgment for the U.S. government’s aegis from added tribes. But the Osage had added to abhorrence from the white men.

In 1870, the Osage were ultimately pushed assimilate their final destination, the arctic axial allocation of Oklahoma, breadth they lived by affluence agriculture and by leasing acreage to ranchers for grazing. Beneath the acceding adjourned by Arch James Bigheart, the acreage was endemic by the Osage admitting administered by the U.S. government. Bigheart additionally adjourned a accord in which the Osage maintained mineral rights to their land.

That accepted important because oil was apparent in Osage Canton authoritative the association almost affluent due to a arrangement alleged headrights. This meant that anniversary association affiliate would be allotted royalties from both the auction of the oil leases and additionally for a allotment of the extracted petroleum. Back some of the bidders on the leases were bodies like Frank Phillips, George Getty and Frank Sinclair, the auctions on some leases would activate at $500,000 and end at over $1 million. In 1923, in aloof one day, $14 actor in oil leases were sold: over $200 actor in today’s dollars.

This abundance helped transform Osage territory; with the capital villages — Fairfax, Hominy, and Pawhuska – acceptable the agnate of Western boomtowns. Horses and wagons were replaced by Model T Fords; one-level board anatomy food gave way to five-story brick arrangement buildings; telegraph offices were replaced by blocks and blocks of bang poles and wires.

Envious Whites 

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By standards of the time, the Osage Indians became rich; some employing servants, active in abounding homes, alike purchasing admirable pianos. In added words, the Osage began behaving like affluent white Americans, but – because they were Indians – their displays of abundance affronted a backfire in the U.S. press. For instance, in autograph about the auctions, a announcer for Harper’s Monthly asked, “Where will it all end? Every time a new able-bodied is accomplished the Indians are that abundant richer.  The Osage Indians are acceptable so affluent that article will accept to be done about it.”  (Grann, p. 76)

Two things were done. First, the federal government instituted a arrangement of guardianships. This meant that anniversary Osage association affiliate could be accounted “incompetent,” and that apprenticed a guardian be appointed to the case. As Grann notes, this arrangement was about consistently based on the abundance “of Indian claret in the acreage holder; or what a accompaniment absolute cloister amends referred to as ‘racial weakness.’“ (ibid, p. 78)

Congressmen would abstraction and assay expenditures fabricated by anniversary abandoned Osage and criticize the amounts spent on assertive items. At times these assessments echoed Rudyard Kipling’s acclaimed adage about England address the white man’s accountability for colonized natives, or as Grann quotes a congressman:

“Every white man in Osage Canton will acquaint you the Indians are now active wild. The day has appear aback we charge activate our brake of these moneys or aish from our hearts and censor any achievement we accept of architecture the Osage Indian into a accurate citizen.” (ibid, p. 79)

Therefore, in 1921, not abandoned were the Osage bound by defective approval from their guardians for expenditures, but banned were placed on how abundant they could annually abjure from their assurance fund. Practical exceptions like accepting medical bills or absent to accelerate accouchement to clandestine colleges did not matter. As one can imagine, this guardian arrangement additionally provided abounding opportunities for abstraction of the Osage “trust” funds.

The additional adjustment that the bounded ability anatomy activated to ascendancy the Osage abundance was acclimatized through a acknowledged loophole. That artifice defined that the Osage assurance funds could be anesthetized on through ancestors inheritance. What this meant was that if an Osage woman affiliated addition alfresco the tribe, her bedmate could accede her wealth.

A Killing Spree 

But there was alike a added adverse ancillary to these arrangements. Osage women started dematerialization and bodies who dared investigate started axis up dead.

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In May 1921, Mollie Burkhart began to anguish about Anna Brown, her missing sister. Three years earlier, her sister Minnie had died at age 27 afterwards a brief, abstruse illness. And about a anniversary afore Anna’s disappearance, a man alleged Charles Whitehorn, addition Osage, had vanished. Whitehorn’s anatomy was anon activate at the abject of an oil derrick. He had been attack execution-style with two bullets amid the eyes. (ibid, p. 14)

A few canicule afore her disappearance, Anna had gone to see a comedy with Mollie’s husband, Ernest Burkhart, and his brothers Bryan and Horace. Ernest assured Mollie that Anna would appearance up soon. But Anna never alternate alive. Her anatomy was activate by a boy out accumulate hunting at the bend of a creek. She had been asleep by a .32 ability ammo to the rear of the skull. (ibid, p. 19)

Because bounded authorities seemed afraid to investigate her sister’s murder, Mollie angry to a man alleged William Hale, who was a pallbearer at Anna’s funeral. Hale had been a affluent agriculturist in Osage canton for two decades, a assets abettor sheriff and a political accessory of the canton prosecutor. Hale already said, “I will consistently be the Osages accurate friend.”

The delving activate that Bryan Burkhart was the aftermost accepted being to accept apparent Anna alive. He said he brought her aback to her home and never saw her again. His brother, Ernest Burkhart, said, “I don’t apperceive of enemies she had or anyone that awful her.” (ibid, p. 31)

After eliminating bounded outlaws and her above bedmate as suspects, the bounded Amends of the Peace bankrupt the case in July 1921. He assured that both Anna Brown and Charles Whitehorn had died at “the easily of parties unknown.” (ibid, p. 35)  That aforementioned month, Mollie’s mother Lizzie additionally anesthetized away. Bill Smith, Mollie’s brother-in-law, became assertive Lizzie had been poisoned.

The abstruse deaths didn’t stop there. In February 1922, a 29-year-old Osage alleged William Stepson died, additionally believed to accept been poisoned. Five months later, Joe Bates, addition Osage association affiliate in his 30s additionally died of doubtable poisoning. (ibid, pgs. 67-68)

With the afterlife assessment climbing, but the accessible and clandestine inquiries acquiescent bare results, the Osage angry to Barney McBride, a affluent white oil man whom they trusted and who was absolutely affectionate to Indian affairs. He knew several bodies in Washington who ability help.

The night McBride accustomed in Washington, he chock-full at the Elks Club to comedy billiards. As he departed, addition captivated a burlap bag deeply over his arch to blackout him. The aing morning, McBride’s anatomy was activate a a canal in Maryland. He had been stabbed 20 times, his arch was bashed in, and, except for his shoes and socks, his anatomy was bare naked. The authorities doubtable McBride had been followed from Oklahoma. The Washington newspapers alleged McBride’s killing “the best barbarous in abomination account in the District.” (ibid, p. 69)

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A few weeks later, the asleep anatomy of Henry Roan was activate in his car. He had been a acquaintance of William Hale, the agriculturist who had vowed to advice break the annihilation of Anna Brown. (ibid, pgs. 81-82)

But the killing bacchanalia abandoned got worse. A amazing access tore through the abode of Mollie Burkhart’s sister and brother-in-law, Rita and Bill Smith, the man who had accurate his authoritativeness that Mollie’s mother Lizzie had been poisoned. Rita Smith and a maid Nettie Berkshire died in the bang and Bill Smith died four canicule later.

That adventure admiring the absorption of a above prosecutor, W.W. Vaughn, who abstruse that a abeyant attestant was in a hospital in Oklahoma City adversity from doubtable poisoning, George Burkhart, a nephew of affiliated arch James Bigheart. Aback Vaughn accomplished the hospital room, he met abandoned with the ailing man anon afore he died. Vaughn again alleged the Osage Canton sheriff and told him he now had all the advice he bare and would booty the aboriginal alternation to canyon on the affirmation to the sheriff. The sheriff asked him if he knew who asleep Bigheart. Vaughn replied that he knew a lot added than that. (ibid, p. 94)

But Vaughn never accustomed in Pawhuska to accommodated with the sheriff. He was abject from his Pullman car and his is anatomy was found 36 hours later with his aing broken. Whatever addendum he took concerning his account with Bigheart had disappeared. With Vaughn’s death, the official cardinal of murders in the Osage case rose to 24. The bounded and accompaniment authorities seemed blank to stop it.  Whoever was active the artifice seemed above the ability of the law.

Federal Attention

In the summer of 1925, the arch of Washington’s Bureau of Investigation absitively it was time to arbitrate in a austere way. One of the functions of the Bureau, which had not yet been alleged the FBI, was to investigate crimes on Indian reservations. The ambassador was 29-year-old J. Edgar Hoover, who knew his position was tenuous. Hoover absitively the abandoned way to anticipate added bad publicity was to alarm in a law enforcement acquaintance from the breadth and accord him the ability he bare to able the case.

The man Hoover alleged aloft was Tom White, a Texas Ranger for 12 years afore aing the Bureau in 1917. Hoover offered White the administration of the Oklahoma City arrangement and the abandon to baddest his own assignment force. Hoover fabricated a acceptable best and was astute to accord White the ability he needed.

White absitively to accompany the cabal on two levels. He would break in Oklahoma City as the accessible face of the inquiry. From there, he and his arch administration – best conspicuously John Burger – would analysis the files that had accumulated from all law administration agencies over the aftermost four years. Secretly, White would apply a aggregation of clandestine agents who would boring breeze into the Osage breadth gluttonous to accomplish accompany and to acquisition leads. One of these agents was John Wren, a Ute Indian.

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White  was absorbed in award out if Bill Smith, the bombing victim, had appear annihilation afore he died. Through all his adversity and bottomward in and out of comas at the hospital, Smith had managed to say that he had abandoned two enemies in the world. They were William Hale, the agriculturist who had declared his adherence to the Osage people, and his brother-in-law Ernest Burkhart, Mollie’s bedmate and Hale’s nephew. (ibid, p. 152)

But there was article abroad White apparent during his analysis into Smith’s final hours. Afore Smith died, David Shoun, a accepted doctor in Osage County, got him to assurance a certificate authoritative Shoun’s brother James, who was additionally a doctor, the ambassador of Smith’s asleep wife’s estate. (ibid, p. 153)

That certificate led White to bare a massive arrangement of affix and embezzlement, involving as abundant as $8 actor baseborn from the Osage through the guardian arrangement (or about $112 actor in today’s dollars).

In reviewing the evidence, White anticipation it was odd that Hale was never advised a doubtable in the annihilation of Henry Roan because Hale was the almsman of a $25,000 allowance action aloft Roan’s death. And advisers of the allowance aggregation said Hale had approached them to advertise Roan the policy. Aback an abettor appropriate $10,000 as the sum, Hale upped it to $25,000. Back Hale was not a relative, he had to prove that Roan owed him money in adjustment to aggregate on the action of a man who was not yet 30. Hale produced a certificate that said Roan owed him the absolute bulk of the policy. White afterwards activate that the certificate had been doctored. (ibid, p. 159)

White additionally apparent addition analytical aspect of the Hale/Roan relationship. Hale had abominably approved to acquirement Roan’s mineral headrights. But the attack led White to addition lead. While belief the almanac of the murders, and the betray that Dr. Shoun had pulled on Smith afore his death, White assured that, with Mollie Burkhart’s ancestors dying off one by one, added and added headrights were catastrophe up with Mollie, who was affiliated to Ernest Burkhart, Hale’s nephew.

Was this the cold of the conspirators? White articular that if he was appropriate about Hale, it was time to about-face to the bent abyss for added information. In talking to bounded abyss who specialized in arise safes, White came beyond a antecedent who said he knew the man who had created the “box” – the nitroglycerine agglutinate and amalgamation – for the Smith bombing. It angry out that, while in the action of a jewel heist, this man had been asleep by a bounded merchant. But, as White afterwards learned, the bandit was asleep because Hale had angled off the merchant. (ibid, p. 176)

Financial Motive

The case was burst aback White went aback into the files and apparent an adviser alleged Blackie Thompson, who was bisected Cherokee. He told White that Ernest Burkhart and William Hale had approved to admit him in the Smith bombing, but he was arrested for annexation afore the bombing was agitated out. White confronted Burkhart with Thompson’s affirmation affidavit. Aback Burkhart still denied it, he had Thompson access the allowance to endorse the document. Burkhart again accepted his role, adage that aback he bidding anxiety about the bombing, Hale said to him, “What do you care. Your wife will get the money.” (ibid, p. 190) Burkhart additionally appear the names of the killers who Hale had recruited to annihilation Henry Roan and Anna Brown.

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Hale did aggregate to escape justice. He attempted to access the admirable jury, he approved to accept his case confused out of federal cloister and into accompaniment court. He alike apache an apache to annihilation a key witness. But White heard about it afore it could action and confronted the accused assassin. Hale and three accomplices were eventually convicted.

In his book about the mystery, columnist Grann argues that if the victims had been white, Hale would accept accustomed the afterlife penalty. But back they were Indians, the conspirators were bedevilled to activity in prison. Ernest Burkhart and Hale were eventually paroled. Hale afterwards said, “If that abuse Ernest had kept his aperture shut, we’d be affluent today.” (ibid, p. 248)

Shortly afterwards Hale went to jail, White retired from the Bureau and became a bastille warden. Hoover bankrupt the case. But that meant the accessible never apparent who stabbed Barney McBride in Washington and who threw W. W. Vaughn from that Oklahoma City train.

Grann looked up Vaughn’s absolute birth and was told that Vaughn’s ancestors was threatened not to accompany the bulk any further. (ibid, p. 259) But they did, and advice was anesthetized on from one bearing to another. Their above doubtable was a bounded broker alleged H. G. Burt, who approved to abstract money from Vaughn’s acreage and was afterwards sued by his widow.

White had apparent that Burt and Hale were aing associates. In fact, White had one adviser who labeled Burt a murderer. And Burt had a motive for his captivation in the conspiracy. Afterwards George Bigheart died, his admired headrights were anesthetized on to Bigheart’s babe whose guardian was Burt. Burt additionally was on the alternation with Vaughn aback it ancient Oklahoma City and he appear Vaughn’s disappearance. And, aback Hoover beatific Tom White to Oklahoma City to booty over the case, Burt confused to Kansas. (ibid, p. 264)

At the end of the book, Grann looked up the annal of Indian guardianships that the Bureau of Indian Diplomacy maintained. Two things addled him as absolute about these records. The aboriginal is the ceremony of administration rights to able bodies in Osage Canton like Burt and the buyer of the bounded Trading Company. Some of these bounded luminaries  had as abounding as 13 wards. The additional analytical bulk was the cardinal of wards who died mysteriously beneath guardianship. (ibid, p. 281)

After accomplishing an analysis into added cases in which the Bureau had advice that did not advance to the Hale plot, the columnist concludes that the official cardinal of Osage asleep abundantly exceeds the 24 alleged by the FBI. Grann believes that one of the best accepted forms of annihilation was through hypodermic aggravate active with morphine. Then, accommodating doctors, like the Shoun brothers, would burrow the absolute account of death. (p. 290)

The book leaves the clairvoyant with the bright association that the cabal to annihilate and rob the Osage was abundant added than the one that Hale organized. As one ascendancy on the case told Grann, “If Hale had told what he knew, a aerial allotment of the county’s arch citizens would accept been in prison.” (ibid, p. 291)

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James DiEugenio is a researcher and biographer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and added mysteries of that era. His best contempo book is Reclaiming Parkland.

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