In the teens of the Twentieth Century, at the point of the oil boom, the Osage tribe of Native Americans found themselves incredibly – and suddenly – wealthy. They’d rather smartly and fortuitously retained the oil and mineral rights to their lands, and so the arrival of derricks and pipelines made them all tremendously rich.
The tribe became an object of fascination in the press due to their spending and ostentation (although the point is made here that what they did with their money wasn’t so out of place with the rest of The Roaring Twenties). However, the institutional racism of the time meant that the US government often didn’t think of them as capable of looking after their own cash – regarding them as little better than children – and put white guardians in place. As horrifying as that sounds all by itself, these white guardians would to often try to skim off, or even outright steal, as much of the money as they could. But even worse (and if you’re looking for the pits of human nature, this book will provide it), a plot was soon hatched to kill the Osage and try and to take control of the land and the rights.
Grann is a master in bringing this world and these people back to life – but it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by man’s inhumanity to man. (Particularly the postscript which reveals how much further the crimes went.) I’d recommend it to anyone, although you should be aware that this is a sobering, brutal, if ultimately fascinating read.
If you’re interested in my own writings, SOMETHING WENT WRONG AND OTHER STRANGE TALES – my frankly must read collection of scary and quirky short stories is available for free now!