What You Need to Know About the Movie “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Martin Scorsese’s film Killers of the Flower Moon is based on David Grann’s non-fiction book, which explores the murders of dozens of Osage people in Oklahoma in the 1920s. This is an epic story that explores not only murders, but also greed, wealth, conspiracy, racism, and the early days of the FBI. As we delve into the surprising facts behind the story told in Grann’s book, we understand why Scorsese’s newest film is one of his great masterpieces.

Two of the central figures in both Grann’s book and Scorsese’s film are Mollie and Ernest Burkhart (Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio), a married couple living in Oklahoma at the time of the murders. Mollie was an Osage woman and Ernest was a white man. Among the many victims of the murders was Mollie’s sister; his mysterious death became the centerpiece of a years-long conspiracy to kill the wealthy Osage people. But before we get into how the whole conspiracy is unraveled, it’s necessary to understand why the deaths occurred in the first place.

The Osage were very wise about how they acquired their wealth. They knew the Osage region was rich in black gold long before America’s largest oil companies. They also knew that the view of their property was considered undesirable to white men. They thus acquired large tracts of land that would both isolate them from the white men and result in a huge windfall once the abundance of oil became known to all.

Despite careful planning by the Osages, white men believed that wealth had unfairly fallen into the hands of these Indian Americans. They argued that the federal government had provided the Osage with incredibly valuable land through sheer good luck. As a result, some white Oklahomans felt that something serious had to be done to redistribute wealth into the hands of white men. One of the white men who resented the wealth of the Osages was William Hale (Robert De Niro).

Hale was a gruff but well-connected Oklahoman who made many local politicians credit him with their electoral success. She was also Ernest Burkhart’s uncle. Hale was ostensibly an ally of the Osages, befriending some of them and even protecting them from some Draconian government policies. He also participated in murder investigations where Osage people were shot to death, their bodies thrown into ditches. From the outside, Hale appeared to be a caring ally of the Osages. But the reality was much worse.

What Was Oklahoma Like in the 1920s?

The government made every effort to forcibly assimilate the Osages into the American way of life. Osage children were essentially forced to attend American schools, speak English, and adopt Christianity as their own religion, a practice common to many Native nations. The government even controlled the spending habits of the Osage, with members of Congress scrutinizing Osage spending. Many wealthy American Indians were even appointed “guardians” to oversee their finances.

At this point in American history, local police departments were either understaffed, underfunded, or non-existent. This meant that complex tasks such as investigating murders fell into the hands of inexperienced locals, who more or less took it upon themselves to gather evidence and interrogate suspects. For the wealthy, private detectives like the Pinkertons could be used instead. These detectives were dedicated and ruthless; They sometimes blurred the lines between legal and illegal investigative methods, trying to uncover mysteries buried beneath layers of lies and corruption.

The Osage hired Pinkerton agents to investigate the suspicious killing spree of tribal members. As these investigations progressed, it soon became apparent that a full-blown conspiracy may be at the root of all the violence. When an Osage representative visited Washington, D.C. to implore the federal government to look into the matter, he was also brutally murdered. The conclusion at the time was that his killers had followed him from Oklahoma to Washington, sending him as a warning to anyone delving too deeply into the mysteries of the Osage murder.

Finally, the governor of Oklahoma sent his lead investigator into the Osage reservation after a horrific incident in which a bomb destroyed an Osage home, killing three people and terrorizing the townspeople. But soon this state investigator was caught collaborating with local criminals and taking bribes, making him completely useless in uncovering the source of the murders.

Finally, Agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons) of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation arrives in Oklahoma with the intention of becoming an impartial and honest investigator with the authority to overrule local power players and solve a series of brutal murders. After years of inaction and deadlock, White assembled a team of agents, including a Native American, to solve the case.

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