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The beauty in the tragedy of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

The+novel+and+film+both+utilize+a+rich%2C+evocative+setting+to+convey+the+storys+emotional+depth.
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The novel and film both utilize a rich, evocative setting to convey the story’s emotional depth.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” (KOTFM) was a book written by David Grann and published in 2017. It tells the story of the Osage tribe and the heart-wrenching betrayals that are spurred by humanity’s greed. A movie adaptation of the novel, directed by Martin Scorsese was released in October..

KOTFM is a story about the bustling Osage Native American tribe, a group of the richest people per capita in the world during the 1920’s because of the black gold (oil) found on their reservation. While the Osage were rich, the government passed a law in 1921 requiring them to prove their competence to manage their own vast wealth, often based on the percentage of Osage blood they had. The early 20th century saw discrimination abound – especially towards Native Americans, who were seen by most European Americans as no more than animals, and deaths often were not investigated. 

The competency system was often abused, and if they were not deemed fit they received a “guardian” to manage their assets, who often spent or embezzled carelessly with little fear of any consequence. The asset guardians also gained control of the oil royalties of the Osage they looked after if they died. Unsurprisingly, many of the white guardians who looked over multiple Osage saw them die from mainly mysterious circumstances. This is the setting that KOTFM is under, and the story itself has three parts, mainly following the life of Mollie Burkhart during the Reign of Terror era (what many Osage refer to this dark time as), the FBI’s creation, and the unsolved murders of countless more Osage.

The book starts off by following Mollie as her husband, Ernest Burkhart and his uncle, William K. Hale, are trying to kill her for oil money. As the story progresses, the former Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI) comes in and eventually uncovers the ghastly plot of these extensive murders. After the plot against Mollie was uncovered, and they saved her from being poisoned, Hale and Ernest were prosecuted in one of the most shocking court cases of the century. Eventually they both were sentenced to jail, but later let out on parole. The injustices of our courts were showcased with the life sentences being reduced to under a couple decades for a crime of mass murder. The last leg of the book talks about the shocking amount of other cases that were never filed or investigated by the FBI. This was the main part of the book that stood out to me as a reader because of all of the untold stories and countless Osage families that were affected. It puts into perspective the horrifying hold greed had over so many.

The movie really holds up to the book and helps show the depth of emotions that these families underwent seeing all of their tribe members murdered around them. It decides to focus on the viewpoint of Ernest and explore the nuances of the characters’ relationships with the set of murders around Mollie’s family. The culture of killing is shown through the disregard for the Osage people’s lives, with one character in the movie being asked to kill someone, and  despite initially rejecting the task, accepted it upon hearing they were a Native American. This story was one that needed to be told, with the book and movie working beautifully together to bring to light a tragic conspiracy that shows the worst side of humanity.

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About the Contributor
Elias Andreopoulos
Elias Andreopoulos, Staff Reporter
Elias Andreopoulos is a senior and this is his first year in newspaper. He is an active choir officer and loves being part of the chorus community, and is also in the school acapella group. Andreopoulos loves to play video games, watch shows, cook, and read many different genres. He is very excited to do photography and get better at writing stories in his last year.
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