tv David Grann Killers of the Flower Moon CSPAN October 9, 2017 9:35pm-10:26pm EDT
>> [inaudible conversations] >> good evening, everyone. welcome to the public library. thank you for your patience and flexibility and thank you, rainy day books for getting david here. these circumstances are out of everyone's control. his plane was delayed. you may insert your own airline joke. but tonight david will talk about his book killers of the flower moon and his greed, fear, anger and racial claim. it's part political history and this is a book that will
generate conversation long after david catches his next plane. it's easy to read this book because it is in a suspenseful way. it's hard to read this book because it is true and devastating and maddening. he's written for "the new york times" magazine atlantic "washington post" wall street journal republic. his his award-winning book that is in theaters right now and if you can't take their word or line about supreme court justice stephen breyer who cited one of the pieces in his opinions so please, welcome david. [applause]
my first book was the loss of the v. and it was about an explorer that did something foolish to following the steps in to find ancient city and i can see that after leaving at 9 a.m. this morning it's a lot easier to trek through the jungle but i did come to look at it as just amazing. i'm here to talk about my new book killers of the flower mound, the osage murders and the birth of the fbi. the project began four to five years ago when i made a visit out to a donation in northeast oklahoma.
when i was there, i visited the museum and i saw a panoramic photograph this is just a fraction of it. it went all across the wall and you can see the portrait on the title page of the book. it has taken in 1924 and it shows the members gather that i noticed on a portion of the photograph off to the left being cut out if it clicks and that he had taken scissors to it and i asked the director what had happened to have dismissing portrait and she said they decided to remove it and pointed to the missing panel and said the devil was standing right there. they tried to understand who that figure was and it led me to
what i would come to realize was one of the most sinister crimes in american history and one that i believe tells a larger story about this country. the crimes took place in the beginning of the early part of this century and to understand first that the osage indians were engineers because of the oil deposits. to extract the oil, prospectors had to pay for leases and royalties. royalties. not initially in 191910, there were about 2,000 that would receive a check every four or five months into this for maybe $100 then a few years later it grew to a thousand. then a few more years of accumulated into the millions of dollars just to give you some sense they collectively received what would be worth today more
than $400 million down from a quarter of the time. he went out to the territory and said low and behold enjoy the steady income that turned bankers green with envy. they became the wealthiest people per capita in the world and the public because of prejudice and envy became transfixed and could be traced all the way back to the first contact and reporters would go to territory and tell stories about the quote unquote osage and millionaires with their engines and cars into servants, many of whom were white and it
was said at the time where one might own a car each found 11 of them and this picture is a revealed of a mother with her hr daughters addressed in the 1920s as slackers. this is even more remarkable which i found recently this old footage was shot in the 1920s and it was actually taken by an earlier moving motion picture camera and was found and restored and here you can see a snippet of single show you what they actually look like in the 1920s. now the tangled history of how they got a had gotten over thisd is all the way back to the 17th century puente controlled much of that part of the country in an area that stretched from what is kansas and missouri all the
way to the edge of the rockies. president thomas jefferson referred to the osage as the greatest nation in the following nation he met with a delegation of chiefs that he described as the finest men he had seen. and he promised and assured them that they would over the u.s. government only has benefactors but within a few figures they began to drive them off the land, and within a few decades they were forced to see more than 100 million acres of their ancestral land. they were eventually combined cd to the reservation in kansas. then in the 1860s they were more under siege dan settlers and there was the laura ingalls wilder later as i'm sure you all know wrote little house on the
prairie into the theme of the novel asked why don't you like indians? i just don't like them. this is indian country, isn't it what do we come to this country for. she explained the government would make them move away. that's why we are here to. we get the best land because we get it first. they said at the time the questionable subject themselves as the savages. in the 1870s, they agreed to do so their land in kansas and
searched once more for a homeland tha if it was then that this chief stood up in a tribal council meeting and a record of the statements still exists to this day. they said we should move to this territory of what was then indian territory and would become the state of oklahoma. he said because it was rocky and was infertile you couldn't farm on it and the white ma man mothr finally leave us alone. even though it was about the size of delaware committee considered it worthless and said this would be a place at the osage would finally be happy and at peace, so they purchased it for 70 cents per acre. they had a deed to their own land and they migrated there. i think there was a tremendous toll on the tribe. there were only a few thousand left, about a third of the population had been.
here you can see the camp on the reservation. in 1906 before oklahoma was about to become the state, the u.s. government forced upon the osage the culmination of its assimilation campaign and i don't know how many of you are familiar with this, but it was a policy imposed on a lot of american indian nations at the time command what it was if it would defeat out reservations and a parcel of land and each member would receive an allotment. the rest would be opened for white settlers. this is an actual photograph of it and they would put a stake
into it and many were trampled in the process and if you even shot. the concept was essentially two and the communal way of life and turn american indians and property owners. the situation would make it much easier to procure their land. but when they were negotiating the allotment did more than any other because they had a deed to their land. once more there was a race to make oklahoma state. the osage for the last in the territory and they were also led by one of the greatest chiefs of the time that spoke several languages including latin and french ship and they managed to slip into the agreement a that t times seemed curious.
what it said is the should maintain control of all the subsurface minimal to become in oumemorable rights to the land. now the osage have a sense that there was a little bit of oil under their land but nobody thought they were sitting upon a fortune. they managed to hold onto this and they received the sheer in this collective trust. much of the surface to the three disappeared into the hands but a they had a right couldn't be bought or sold it could only be inherited so they maintained control over what has become the world's first underground reservation.
before long, the oil boom had begun. there was such demand for whale especially by 1912 and 1914 and then it was discovered the largest deposits were sitting right under the earth and there were auctions held for the leases. they first made their wealth in the territory and would attend these. they would arrive on a private railroad known as the millionaire special and they were held outside under this large stately tree for about
160 acres to sell as much as $2 million into the treaty becamand the treaty becameknown. as the world increased, many americans began to express alarm and dsh began to be scapegoated for their money. here was the period of the great gatsby but somehow it became a concern and members of congress would literally sit in these mahogany paneled rooms and debate what are we going to just about all of this money, how can they have all this money. they went so far as to pass legislation.
this system was racist in every way and was based on the quantum of blood so if you were full-blooded osage, you're suddenly deemed incompetent and given a guardian to oversee their finances. here you could see a chief leaving a great nation i have billions of dollars in trust and a local prominent white citizen telling you which car to buy, whether you can get the toothpaste down at the corner store. it also created one of the large criminal enterprises as many guardians would direct purchases so then they would take kickbacks and embezzled millions of dollars.
the chief testified at a hearing before congress and i want to hear what he said. it's very striking. he said they brought us down thinking it would be a big pile of rocks to put the that put thn that corner. now that it's turned out to be worth millions of dollars, everybody wants to get some of that money. then they began to die under mysterious circumstances and nobody was more profoundly affected than the family of this woman molly burkhart who is a remarkable woman born in the 1880s she grew up in a log like useful in the early picture, one of the early camps practicing the osage traditions. then at the tender age of seven
forged by the government to be uprooted from her home and placed in a boarding school to learn the white man's ways she had to suddenly remove her blanket and had to speak only english and wasn't allowed to speak a sage. within a few decades because of the oil money she had. a separatist from texas and in many ways straddled the two civilizations. now, in may of 1921 she had a sister and that day she came over to molly's house and she was having a party that stayed with relatives and friends, left the house and wasn't seen again. she vanished. molly looked everywhere for her
and a week later was found in this ravine and a picture that was taken by an fbi investigat investigator. she had been shot in the back of the head and was dead and it was the first hint that her family not to mention as well as the tribe had become a prime target of the conspiracy. conspiracy. not long after, literally within days, her mother began to grow mysteriously sick. here you can see a picture of her in the middle and molly is to the right. her mother seemed to grow in substantial each day as if she were withering away. within two months, she stopped breathing and evidenc evidence d later suggest that she had been in place and. so within the span of two months, she lost her sister and
her mother. now molly had another sister named rita smith was so frightened and left out in the countryside with her maid that stayed in the house and decided to move closer to town and she purchased this house here and they moved into thinking they would be safe. very early in the morning, molly heard a loud explosion and got up and went to the window and looked down in the direction of her sister's house. it looked as if the sun burst violently into the night and there was no longer a house there. somebody planted a bomb underneath it killing her husband and the 18-year-old maid
left behind two young children. now, many in this age campaign for justice and to pursue the killers but because of prejudice they often neglected the crimes because the victims were native american. what's more one of the things that shocked me is how corrupt much of the justice system was in the 1920s especially in this remnant of the frontier. she had very little training. molly and others turned to private investigators and they had a much larger prominent role in society back then because they often had to fill this void the problem with private investigators as they often had
backgrounds and were available to the highest data. the boundary between a good man and a bad man were extremely porous. many of the private investigators who were working the case seemed to be concealing evidence rather than unearthing it. while this was going on there wasn't only heitwasn't only hers being systematically targeted. others were dying, too. they got a call one night and left this house and came back from thing at the mouth and indicated he had been poisoned. for those of you familiar with agatha christie mysteries, you know that it is an absolutely horrible poisonous that causes the body to consult as if with electricity and you slowly suffocate while conscious until you mercifully die. one of the reasons this was so
common back then is because even though they knew to protect, the local law men wouldn't perform toxicology so you could go to the local drugstore or grocery store, pick up a form of plays in and give it to somebody and it was an easy way to kill somebody and be undetected and by 1923, people who were trying to catch the killers were also being killed. there was one man started to gather evidence and received a call from and osage dying of poisoning in oklahoma city. he told his wife before he left, he had ten children, i've got evidence in his hiding spot if anything happens make sure you get it to the authority.
even went and met with associations to gather evidence after they died of poisoning, he called authorities and said i have enough evidence to catch the killer. i'm coming back to the county. i'm getting on the next train but when it arrived, he wasn't there. he didn't get off, and they sent out the bloodhounds looking for him. there were local boy scout troops but took up the search, and he was eventually found with his body lying by the railroad tracks. somebody had thrown him from the train. when his wife went to the hiding spot, some deals have already gotten there and cleaned up the evidence as well as the money that he left for her and the ten children who were left destitute. many of the children were then raised by osage families. there was another man, an oil man who was a friend of the a sage and he went to washington, d.c. to give the authority to
investigate the cases, especially given the local corruption. he got to the boarding house in the capital and he checked in and received a telegram from the associates in oklahoma but said the careful. the oilmen carried with him a bible and a pistol. that evening he left the boarding house and was abducted and at some point, somebody wrapped a burlap sack around his head. he was found a the next morning. he'd been detained to death, stabbed more than 20 times.
why that cave over the first major homicide case. then j. edgar hoover summoned tom wight to washington. tom white is a remarkable man and in many ways reflect the transformation of the country he was born in a cab then in texas with a tribe and his father was a share if. he saw people being hong and became a texas ranger as were many of his brothers. writing on the horse with a pearl handle done and often had the smoking beryl of the den and by 1925 to be
summoned into washington he has to learn to adapt techniques like handwriting analysis and final paperwork which she can stand but hoover at the time is replacing those old frontier lawman with the new breed. they type faster than they shot and then those old-timers in fact, had very little criminal experience so hoover kept on the role and they were known as the cowboys. so just taking a few months before her white strong this is exactly what he looked like. only 29 years old not yet an
autocratic power over the next several decades he was doing his job and was secure about his power. so taller agents hated to be summoned to headquarters because if he thought they were told they could fire them and also on tuesday and on that -- tuesday and on that. even though he had on his new suit finally he was wearing a cowboy hat and violated protocol. here he was swooning over hoover and at that time they were working on the case over two years and that was
completely disastrous. not only did agents fail to make any arrests during that time but they got him out of prison and said don't worry we have this covered but shortly after he killed a police officer. [laughter] no later after he tried to escape from prison was gunned down but it is hard to believe he what is insecure about his power and the scandal sent his dreams of the bureaucratic empire. this was a corruption scandal bribes and cover-ups and he figured if there was another scandal he may be ousted. said he realizes he has not
been summoned to be fired but in fact, to save his own tale he needs one of the cowboys to help try a touche takeover the only way to try to crack the case is to put the undercover team to recruit those old frontier men the most interestingly recruiting an american indian agent but it is fair to say the only american at the time in hoover's bureau they infiltrated the reason imposed as cattlemen and according to the record actually sold insurance
policies that don't know what happened to them. [laughter] they have to learn techniques with thing your printing and handwriting analysis to track the evolution of law enforcement and in many twists and turns with a criminal investigation of espionage those double agents who was conspiring against you the reports were leaked even though they were not authorized and i will not reveal all of the parts of the investigation because it is more powerful to read about it in context but
ultimately the agents follow the money to who is profiting from these crimes. or from the of murderers? if it turned out to be somebody that you trusted but that osage oil money and to involve people pretending to love you pretending to be intimate with you that all the time plotting and scheming to kill you and your family members.
i cannot capture the level of this deception but to get to this level of the trail like julius caesar. i did it with smiles. so with the osage nation the director was gunned down from the missing panel. and was one of the masterminds that the bureau had arrested. and it occurred to me that the osage because they can
and with transformation cowboy riding on a horse. and with daybed of perspective from the vantage point of a reporter. so then to show what happened to the osage money today. to see the bar boarded up in the town and during that research tracking the defendants one of the most powerful experiences but one of those was the descendant
granddaughter of molly parker. -- burckhardt and provided details and told me what it was like what it was like forever her father knows best the osage reign of terror. and speaking to margie that drove home hell is still reverberates to this day. including her murdered siblings and relatives. and then true in the
graveyard. and then to look at the ages that as a genocidal crimes. so to tell the story this way to show the elusiveness of history. with that document of conspiracy. and then to have a portrait. based on the archival records with the evidence that they provided. it goes much deeper and darker conspiracy. i will still answer any questions. [applause]
details of how those headlights were never returned?. >> when i began the story very much for lack of a better word who did it? that was the mystery but over time much more of a story of food did not do that. there were so many composite doctors administering poison. and those it did the report what was happening. those who were profiting from the crime.
the story of a culture of killing. so the darkness may not work in some person's heart but it gets to the question a lot of wealth was stolen and never recorded -- recovered. >> ag for a wonderful presentation i do have one question but did 1921 outside of tulsa what was going on? with us another under reported story but the
kkk had the big plan from oklahoma so to read us documents even with the congressional hearing to get the sense that how widespread the crisis was. but one of the things the legal institutions were very fragile spending many decades the special thing i took away from the book the we're just a country of laws.
was orchestrating this did the killing stop? are was there another person?. >> it isn't just capturing it was actually bringing them to use justice. but it was real questions if those jurors would convict a white man for the asian-american and. you could corrupt to the justice system eventually serve decades and should have died in prison. and could call it one last
political favor in that conspiracy this person was responsible for many death going on a separate families so with that complicity team nobody did anything to stop it. tip many people were getting wealthy. this is what that great deal of complicity in this easier did think of somebody pulling all the strings are perpetrating the crime.