In the late 1800s, the Osage Nation struck blackgold. Overnight, their Oklahoma reservation became one of the most sought-after pieces of land in the country, and Osage tribal members became the wealthiest people per capita in the world. But the oil money that bought the Osage mansions and fancy vehicles also put targets on their backs.
During the 1910s–30s, nearly 60 Osage tribal members were murdered by non-natives who sought after headrights to the Osage’s oil royalties. Most of the murders took place between 1921 and 1926 during what is known as the “Reign of Terror,” when tribal members were poisoned, shot, run off the road, and even killed with explosives.
These homicides are the subject of Martin Scorsese’s currently-showing three-and-a-half-hour crime drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone.
Since its debut, the corporate media has fawned over the movie, not just because the film is gripping, the acting immersive, and the cinematics breathtaking (all true), but because it contains themes liberals love: white guilt and indigenous rights.
But there’s another crucial element in “Killers of the Flower Moon” that the media has so far been unwilling to address because it involves themes the left does not like, namely oil and gas, American energy independence, and authentic tribal sovereignty. What the Osage murders inconveniently reveal is that the ultimate villain in the story, the malevolent entity that continues to victimize Osages and all American Indians to this day, is the U.S. federal government.
Federal Government Triggered The Murders
“Killers of the Flower Moon” makes heroes out of the FBI agents who uncovered the murderous conspiracy in Osage County. But viewers should not forget that the“Reign of Terror” was ignited by the vulnerable position the federal government forced the Osage Indians into.
In 1921, Congress passed a law stipulating that Osages deemed “incompetent” by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) were to be assigned white guardians to manage their funds. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “the label of ‘incompetent’ most often applied to those with full Osage ancestry rather than those of mixed heritage.”
Guardians, who were usually local businessmen or lawyers, heavily controlled how much Osages spent and on what. Some guardians reportedly outright stole the majority of their Osage ward’s quarterly headrights payments.
Like with any conservatorship, the guardians could also petition to inherit their Osage ward’s estate if he or she died, leading to the perverse incentive for the systematic murder of Osage wards.
The Osage Want To Drill Baby Drill
During the “Reign of Terror,” the tribe was not able to negotiate its own contracts with oil companies. Instead, the federal government leased parts of Osage land to oil companies on behalf of the Osage. This is because minerals in Osage County are held in trust by the federal government.
Today, the federal government continues to abuse and infantilize the Osage. The Federalist spoke with Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller, who also had a speaking role in “Killers of the Flower Moon” playing Osage Chief Paul Red Eagle. According to Waller, the federal government still has total power over the tribe’s ability to extract oil from their land and, against the tribe’s wishes, BIA regulations have effectively put an end to oil drilling on the Osage reservation since 2014.
“[The BIA] has put so much red tape on us,” said Waller, explaining that the BIA has effectively made the Osage uncompetitive “on the global market” and unable to “get the drilling to come back to take care of our reservation.” Waller added that if you just stepped off tribal land, “The Oklahoma Corporation Commission could literally give you an application to drill in a couple of days.”
For example, the Osage must adhere to special protocol if the endangered American Burying Beetle is known or suspected to exist at a drill sight. “You’re given a long list of criteria you have to do here in Osage that is not a criteria anywhere else,” Waller explained.
Since there’s no more drilling, Waller told The Federalist that they are limited to old wells that produce a little over 600 barrels a year compared to “a quarter of a million barrels produced [per year] in the 1920s.”
Back in 2011, the Osage were awarded $380 million from the federal government for mismanaging the Osage’s trust funds and its mineral estate — two things the Osage resent the federal government for even having control over. As part of the settlement, the federal government promised the Osage to fix outdated regulations forced on the tribe, which deterred oil deals.
After over a decade of waiting and a halt on oil drilling, the tribe was finally presented with updated rules this year. Many of the Osage find the rules overbearing, and Osage Chief Standing Bear has publicly stated he wants the tribe to decide for themselves what extraneous rules and regulations they adhere to.
“It’s like the federal government is showing everyone they don’t have faith in the capabilities of our Osage Minerals Council,” said Standing Bear. “I don’t see the federal government going to ConocoPhillips and telling them how to run their business.”
The Osage’s desire to extract oil on their land isn’t just about tribal sovereignty and funding the Osage reservation — it’s also about U.S. national security. Waller told The Federalist that bolstering American energy independence and replenishing our strategic oil reserves are essential to defending ourselves against enemies abroad. Waller warned that countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, the latter two of which supply the U.S. with energy, are one day “going to cut our throats.”
“I believe [in Osage energy production] wholeheartedly, not just because I’m chairman, but because I know [it’s] best for our country,” he said.
Decades of Disrespect
In the 1831 Cherokee Nation v. Georgia ruling, Chief Justice John Marshall stated that native “relations to the United States resemble that of a ward to his guardian.” This codified, paternalistic system is what gives the BIA power over the Osage. According to Waller, all federal guardianship has done is hurt his community.
Waller told The Federalist that over the decades, the government did not require oil companies to post bonds before drilling. Without any financial incentive to take care of the wells once they dried up, the oil companies simply abandoned them, leaving the Osage with countless hazardous orphaned wells.
Waller traveled to Washington, D.C., to obtain federal grants to close up the wells that never would have been abandoned had the Osage themselves been able to broker their own deals. Waller told The Federalist that, so far, the government has identified 1600 holes that need to be plugged, but there are “[thousands] more.”
The abuse doesn’t stop there. For over a decade, the Osage Nation has been fighting against an illegally constructed 8,400-acre wind farm, which is destructive to the environment and negatively impacts residents’ health.
The wind farm was approved by the Osage County Board (non-tribal affiliated) and did not receive approval from the BIA or the Osage Mineral Council.
The BIA and Mineral Council approval was needed because developers used crushed rock to build the turbines’ bases. Even though the turbines exist on private, non-tribal property in Osage County, they violate Osage mineral rights. This is because according to Oklahoma law, the minerals beneath the soil in Osage County, including the crushed rock, belong to the Osage Nation.
Thanks to the turbines impeding oil extraction, Waller said the tribe is “looking at losses into the billions on just the production.” In 2011, Former Chief John Red Eagle also pointed out that while he doesn’t oppose green energy, the Osage oil fields are not the place for it. Anyone who cares for American energy independence should agree.
All blame and responsibility for the wind farm fiasco falls on the BIA, whose job is supposedly to protect tribal rights. Yet a decade later, the wind farm is still operating, and litigation is ongoing.
The turbines are owned by Enel, an Italian energy giant, which is receiving massive Oklahoma tax credits for the wind farm. “The longer they can stretch [the litigation] out, the more money they’re going to make and the more tax credits they’re going to get,” said Waller.
A Yearning For Freedom
For nearly two centuries, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has victimized Native American tribes, stripping them of true sovereignty and the land rights afforded to every other American. Indeed, most Indian reservations are government-created socialist hellscapes, where indigenous inhabitants experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, suicide, and homicides.
Waller hopes that one day the Osage Nation can “nationalize,” meaning they dissociate from the BIA completely and become equivalent to a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico. This is a serious option for the Osage since, unlike most tribes, whose reservations were created by the federal government, the Osage have the advantage of having legally bought their land in Oklahoma after they were displaced in the late 1800s.
But before the Osage can nationalize, Waller says they need to be sure they can support themselves via energy production, which the BIA is currently preventing. In other words, the federal government has the Osage trapped.
The government’s “guardianship” over the Osage has led to murder, stagnant oil drilling, misappropriated funds, wind farms, and orphaned wells. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is just one chapter in the dehumanizing war the U.S. federal government has waged on the Osage Nation.
Looking to the future, Waller expressed that what he and his people want is freedom from the federal chokehold, a desire every true liberty-loving American can understand. Unfortunately, Hollywood and the media are less interested in this chapter of the story.