The Osage Indian Murders

Kamie Berry | June 2nd, 2017

In the 1920s, the Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma became the richest people per capita in the world. This wealth was the result of massive oil deposits that had been discovered on their land. As would be expected, Osage living standards greatly improved in a short period of time. Many built large homes, bought expensive cars, and hired white people as servants. At the same time that their lives were improving, though, their reservation became one of the most dangerous places in the world.

The first body to be found was that of Anna Brown in 1921, an Osage woman who was found in a ravine, horribly decomposed, with a bullet wound to her head. Two more Osage would turn up dead under mysterious circumstances that year, one of whom was Anna Brown’s mother. By 1923, over 20 Osage or people who were trying to help them had been killed.

theturtleislandnews.com

There was no doubt in the minds of the Osage that jealousy on the part of white people was fueling the murders. It also did not help matters that laws passed by Congress, ostensibly to help the Osage manage their newfound wealth, only compounded the problem. First, each person of half or more Osage ancestry had a guardian appointed who was supposed to help them manage their wealth. Second, no white person could become an owner of Osage mineral rights, except by inheritance. It wasn’t long before several white men married wealthy Osage women, including Mollie Burkhart, the sister of Anna Brown, and relative of several other victims.

Local law enforcement had proved less than helpful in hunting down the Osage killers, so tribal leaders asked the newly formed Bureau of Investigation (the precursor to the FBI) to help. This was to be the first major murder case undertaken by Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover appointed a former Texas Ranger and new agent named Tom White to the case.

White assembled an undercover team made up of frontier lawmen who posed under such professions as insurance agent and rancher. He also hired a Native American, which was unusual for the time. This team soon uncovered a massive criminal racket designed to defraud the Osage of their money and that primarily used the guardianship system to accomplish their goals.

Several people were eventually arrested for the murders, including Mollie Burkhart’s white husband, Ernest. What was more shocking than the killings themselves, however, was the huge attempted cover-up that prevented most of the accused from being convicted. Juries were paid off, morticians covered up true causes of death, and local authorities refused to do anything to see that justice was served.

Only three men- Ernest Burkhart, William Hale, and John Ramsey- were convicted for any of the murders, and even then they only received convictions for a fraction of the 60 murders that eventually took place. It is unknown how many other killers and accomplices escaped arrest and jail time. Even the three convicted murderers were paroled, despite the life sentences they received.

Today, only about 4,000 Osage still live on or near the reservation lands in Oklahoma. And their once great wealth was vastly diminished due to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars during the time of the murders. Even the oil that was once so abundant under their lands has been largely depleted. Sadly, the Osage murders and the fates of their descendants is one of the great miscarriages of justice in American history.

Next Article
  • The Myth Of Sharks Curing Cancer

    One great myth that was making rounds across the scientific world and across all the internet was that sharks had suddenly become the cure for cancer. And they are indeed incredible animals, probably one of the world’s most famous creatures: everyone knows what a shark is. Some people are fascinated and some people shudder in...

    Read More
  • Surgery Saves Man’s Sight With Bionic Eyes

    One blind man has felt the miracle that is medical breakthroughs and modern science. John Jameson from Texas had been blind for over 40 years due to a terrible infection that resulted in the loss of his vision. Jameson eventually gave up on trying to restore his vision, deciding to accept his fate of being...

    Read More
  • President McKinley Gave Away His Lucky Charm And Was Assassinated

    Not everyone is into superstition, and even fewer people believe in lucky charms or voodoo spells. Definitely, in this modern day and age, society has a tendency to champion science over superstitious traditions that are seen as the old ways. But during 1887 when William Mckinley was a young man, lucky charms were all the...

    Read More
  • The Peruvian Hospital Ship In Operation Since 1862

    Yapura is a ship that was commissioned to be built in 1861 alongside its sister boat the Yavari, and she was built to be used on the Lake Titicaca. Aptly named after the Javary river that runs through the Loreto Region of Peru, this in itself is nothing special - until you learn the Yavari...

    Read More
  • 20 Timeless Ancient Beauty Secrets Still Used Today

    Have you ever wondered where beauty regimes came from? Ancient beauty regimes have been happening for thousands of years. From the Aztecs to the Egyptians and from the Greeks to Romans, ancient beauty secrets are all around us. Highlighting hair and facial masks have been circulating through the ages. These ancient beauty secrets have been...

    Read More
  • 20 Of The Most Amazing Things You Can Only Find In Japan

    Japan is an incredibly interesting country that should be on your bucket list to visit if you haven't already. They are ahead of the curve in technology compared to most of the world, and have a fascinating culture that is unique in many ways. So you're bound to find things in the Land of The...

    Read More
  • The World’s Rarest Pasta Are Known As The Threads Of God

    If you would like to eat what is known as the Threads of God then you will need to first embark and complete a 20-mile pilgrimage. Twice a year, pilgrims come to Sardinia to feast on the world’s rarest pasta. Trekking from the city of Nuoro to the village of Lula, all through the night...

    Read More
  • The Eerie Story Of The Phantom Barber

    When it comes to haunted lore, then the Southern States of America have their fair share of stories & tales. You can find cities in the Savannah that have a rich history of being haunted. And of course, we have all the unexplained ghost stories that come out of New Orleans and Charleston. For many...

    Read More