Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon is a movie set in 1920s Oklahoma. Sadly, it depicts a true story about serial murders of members of the Osage Nation, oil, and greed of the American people. This string of brutal crimes came to be known as the Reign of Terror — and it was all about the oil on Osage lands. The plot centers on the history of the Osage Nation, how they outmaneuvered legal precedent at the time, and how the events that happened show a crystal-clear example of the perpetual violence against Native women that continues today.

We encourage every American citizen to watch Killers of the Flower Moon and become more NativeAware® through this brutally accurate depiction of Native history.

PWNA applauds the Osage Nation and its members for bringing this important history to light,
in partnership with producer Martin Scorsese and author David Grann.

Many aspects in the film are reflective of issues faced by the tribes PWNA serves, such as:

  • The strained U.S.-tribal relations
  • Reservation lands not owned by the tribes but held in trust by the federal government (impeding economic development)
  • Unfair play regarding mineral rights.

The Cobell settlement of 2011 was a prime example of this. The entire case was settled at $3.4 Billion, including $1.5 Billion to be split among thousands of individual Natives from Blackfeet and other tribes in our service area, a mere pittance of the mineral rights losses they endured for decades. Meanwhile, $176 Billion was unaccounted for by the federal government, along with 100 years of abusive federal policy and gross negligence in the management of Indian trust lands.

Another crucial example involving Native lands and mineral rights was the Black Hills gold settlement, which arose after the U.S. broke the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The treaty pledged that the Great Sioux Reservation, including the sacred Black Hills, would be “set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians.” And it was… until the Custer expedition discovered gold and settlers poured in for the gold rush from 1874-1876 — and with this, the U.S. treaty promises went out the window. In the 1980 case U.S. v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the Supreme Court found “the 1868 treaty had been repeatedly violated by the U.S. government and white settlers.” They ordered that the Great Sioux Nation required compensation for the broken treaty and ordered payment for the lost land, and over $100 M was awarded. The current value of that award with interest is pushing $2 Billion. But to this day, the Sioux tribes have not accepted the payment, which would mean giving up any future claim to get their rightful land back.

In both cases, the funds from mineral rights could have been put to work building infrastructure, supporting medical care, and providing culturally relevant education to change lives on the reservations. And it’s funds like this, that the local government wanted from Osage lands — even to the point of violence to get them. The amount of money that was diverted from Tribal nations throughout this country is staggering, and it’s heartbreaking when you imagine how this could have translated to intergenerational wealth and changed the trajectory for Indigenous peoples.

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