Killers of the Flower Moon is a strange read. I walked into it hoping to learn about a time and incident in history I knew nothing about. I hoped to learn about the Osage Nation, the people, their culture. And to some extent, I did. I met Mollie Burkhart and her family early in the book’s pages. David Grann mentioned other Osage individuals who had were killed during the Reign of Terror. Somewhere along the line, however, it felt as if we were leaving the Osage Nation, its members and its culture, behind.
A little less than half of this book is about the birth of the FBI and its investigation into the Osage murders. Mollie Burkhart, her family, and other members of the Osage Nation take a backseat to Tom White, his familial background and his fearless pursuit of what Grann believes is only one perpetrator of the Osage murders. Yet, we discover at the end that while there were twenty-four murders accounted for there were, in fact, “countless other killings”—and likely many other perpetrators—that were never investigated. As a reader, this felt like more of a shocking afterthought than the reality of the Osage people.
I’m well aware that this book’s flaws are likely a result of the miscarriage of justice during the Reign of Terror. It’s hard for me, however, to ignore the quieting of the Osage people’s voices in this narrative. This wasn’t just a few strange deaths. It wasn’t just an FBI investigation. For the members of the Osage Nation, it seemed death became their reality and is a pain they have yet to recover from:
The town and the street were empty, and beyond them the prairie, too. “This land is saturated with blood,” Webb said. For a moment, she fell silent, and we could hear the leaves of the blackjacks rattling restlessly in the wind. Then she repeated what God told Cain after he killed Abel: “The blood cries out from the ground.”