This movie is currently being shot right here in Oklahoma’s Osage County and adapted from the book “Killers Of The Flower Moon by David Grann. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay. Both book and screenplay tell the story of the Osage murders and the struggles of the birth of the FBI. The book was only released on April 18, 2017, and quickly became one of the top fiction books of 2017. The movie is an American crime drama produced and directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, with Robert De Niro playing a major role. It is an excellent book, and I look forward to seeing this film.
In 2017, John’s fraternity’s class from DePauw University had a reunion in Savannah, Georgia, and we went. It had only been six months since the book was released, but we were the only ones attending the reunion that had not read the book. They were horrified that we had not read the book and were even from Oklahoma. Everyone asked John about Osage County and if he knew about the murders of the Osage people for their oil wealth in the 1920s. Soon after we returned home, our cousin Jona Kay brought John this book as a present for his birthday in October. John read it cover to cover. I had great difficulty reading it because we spent lots of time on the Rosebud reservation, and this book pulled pain up in me whenever I read it. One reason is that I have great empathy and compassion for Native Americans. Whenever we were first going to the reservation, it felt like we were entering a foreign land. The joy that came from our experiences on the Rosebud Reservation that brought gifts and understanding to us. We saw how many of them live hard lives and have no way out, even today. There are no jobs to be had, the automobiles they have do not work, or perhaps they did not own one at all. One has to spend time there to see why and how this has all come about. It is much like being in a third-world country. Not many have the ability to leave even if they choose to do so. Problems can be traced back to those that took advantage of them or made poor decisions for them, and most were whites.
Another reason this story was difficult for me is that I do not usually enjoy murder mysteries. This true story basically presents devious schemes of murder and tells what murderous white men did to acquire vast wealth being generated for Native Americans with oil rights. This Osage Indian murder mystery is interwoven with the story of the newly formed FBI and its new director, J. Edgar Hoover. It also brings in the history of the Texas Rangers as they applied their frontier skills as lawmen of the Old West. The Rangers use their honed investigative skills as lawmen to assist the newly formed suit-wearing pencil pushers from Washington, D.C.
Of particular interest to me was the author returned from New York City to Osage country several years after doing investigations and interviews of people about past events. The reason for the return trip was to attend a ceremony. He describes an Osage/Ponca Dance, a ceremony of the Osage/Ponca people. In the mid-1880s, the Osage received this dance, traditions, and drum from the Ponca people. It is a dance that is religious in nature and is called In-Lon-Schka. It takes place yearly. While John and I were attending and doing Native American ceremonies, we met an Osage elder named Abe Conklin and his wife, Vickie. Abe attended many ceremonies with us. He also attended meetings in my apartment to learn the Lakota language and gain more information about the Lakotas. We were honored to meet our friend Abe, the Osage Fancy Dancer and Elder. Apparently, it was mutual. Before John and I were married, Abe adopted John as a brother and me as a sister. One day Abe telephoned and said he entered a statement “All Roads Are Good” to people making decisions about what to put over the door of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. Abe could not hide his delight when he learned that his statement “All Roads Are Good” was chosen!
It was our friend, Abe Conklin, that invited us to Gray Horse for a ceremony. He mentioned it to us several times. We were honored to be invited, and when we arrived, we were honored to sit with the family. To our surprise, Abe called John and me to come to the center of the dance circle where drumming, singing, and dancing took place. We were then each presented with an Indian blanket properly draped around us, and we were shown how to wear it. We both knew it was a great honor to be gifted a blanket in this way and were happy they showed us the proper wearing of it. We had learned there are several ways to wear a blanket as a form of communication. It can be worn around the waist, over the shoulders, or in several other positions. Each position conveys to others the well-understood meaning of anger, agreement, hostility, openness, and so many other ways that I do not know or understand. I do know this. We were honored, delighted, and humbled by our treatment and acceptance as Abe and Vicki danced us around the circle in front of all in attendance at Gray Horse before leaving the center of the ceremony. Part of our experience in that room included the living descendants of the Osage people portrayed in the book, which made the book’s reading all the more meaningful and personal. It also brought back memories of that day at Gray Horse.
John and I were fortunate to have similar experiences with elders of the Taos Pueblo, the Kiowa, and the Rosebud Lakota Sioux. This book brought up wonderful adventures we were lucky enough to have had that now seems like a dream.
When John and I married in 1995, we asked Abe to officiate a Native American Blessing Ceremony for John and me one month following our marriage. He laughed and said, “Well, it seems a little strange to bless the marriage of my brother and my sister, but I will be happy to do this.” He brought together a fantastic ceremony.
LESSON: When carrying love in our mind and heart when entering foreign territory, it is good to remember that every person we meet also has love and God’s light at their center. If they act like they initially do not accept or appreciate your presence, keep that warmth of love within and continue to be kind. Blessings do eventually surround you!
GIFTS: Abe’s saying, “All roads are good.” When we were being honored at the Gray Horse Ceremony by the ancestors of the people the book portrayed, people that suffered at the hands of non-Indians, I experienced their qualities of compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing. I saw wounds and injuries could be righted and healed as these qualities transcend the differences in culture from which we all arise.
All roads are indeed good and so are the people who travel them.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a great book demonstrating greed and much more! A book to be read.