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May 25, 2017

Rare Photos Show Members of the Osage Indian Tribe That Were Being Killed Off One-by-One After Oil Was Discovered Underneath Their Land

Rare images have revealed the intriguing murder mystery that captivated a nation as the FBI stepped in for the first time in history to solve a case. The black and white pictures show the Native American tribe that were being killed off one-by-one after oil was discovered underneath their land.

The Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma, USA were the richest people per capita in the world in the 1920s and had built mansions, rode in chauffeured automobiles and sent their children to study in Europe.

The true-life murder story, which became one of the FBI’s first major homicide investigation, is chronicled in a new book, Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann and published by Simon and Schuster.

The killings began in May 1921, with 25-year-old Anna Brown. Her decaying body was found by hunters in a ravine. Police suspected alcohol-poisoning — until a coroner found she had been shot between the eyes. The same day, her cousin Charles Whitehorn’s body turned up — and two months later her mother Lizzie Kyle died, her death blamed on whiskey.

Then in early 1923, Brown’s cousin Henry Roan was shot in his car. The next month Brown’s sister Rita Smith and her husband Bill died when their house exploded.

But the murders went far beyond just one family. The FBI estimated 60 Osage Indians died violent or suspicious deaths. A mother was found dead on her lawn. A sympathetic local lawyer was thrown from a speeding train and a white oilman who travelled to Washington D.C. to report on the crimes was stabbed 20 times.

By 1923, as local police seemed unwilling to investigate, the tribe demanded justice. Luckily, the then fledgling FBI was looking for cases to earn them publicity, so from 1923 to 1925 they quizzed more than 150 people in relation to the Osage killings. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asked Tom White to unravel the mystery. Mr White put in place an undercover team, who alongside the Osage, exposed a chilling conspiracy.

In its undercover investigation, the FBI found that several murders in one family were found to have been committed by a gang led by William "King of Osage Hills" Hale. His goal was to gain the oil royalty headrights and wealth of several tribe members, including his nephew's Osage wife, the last survivor of her family.

Three men were convicted and sentenced in this case, but most murders went unsolved. The investigation also uncovered extensive corruption among local officials involved in the Osage guardian program.

As a result of the Reign of Terror, as it was known, and the subsequent investigation Congress changed the law to prohibit non-Osage from inheriting headrights from Osage with half or more Native American ancestry.

Mollie Burkhart, right, with her sisters Anna and Minnie. They were part of the Osage Native American tribe, who were killed one by one in a murder mystery.

Mollie became a prime target after it was revealed her people were living on land where there was oil underneath.

The Osage tribe were among the richest people in the world and often rode in chauffeur-driven cars.

The fourth sister Rita with servant.

The killings began in May 1921, when 25-year-old Anna Brown’s decaying body was found by hunters in a ravine.

The Osage nation native Americans were among the richest in the world but were eventually forced into a new reservation.

The ravine where Anna Brown's body was found.

The Al Spencer Gang jokingly hold up others in their crew. All gangsters in the local area were under suspicion of carrying out the murders.

Lawmen seize illegal moonshine in Osage County in 1923 at the time of the murders. They killings were the first investigated by the FBI.

William Hale competing in a roping contest when he was a cowboy.

Several of the murders were found to have been committed by a gang led by William “King of Osage Hills” Hale (center).

Clyde Dolan, left, and J Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI.

FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover, right, brought in Tom White, left, a stetson-wearing, Texan lawman to solve the case.

The FBI team included a former Texas Ranger who was said to be sutied for ‘any element of danger’.

Killer Bill Hale.

Eventually, Detective Tom White traced the start of the crimewave to Anna Brown’s brother-in-law, a white man called Ernest Burkhart and his domineering uncle Bill Hale.

Devil in the detail... part of a panoramic 1924 photo of the Osage tribe before this left-hand section with evil Bill Hale, circled, was removed.

(Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann, is published by Simon and Schuster; via Media Drum)


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