In The 1920s, A Community Conspired To Kill Native Americans For Their Oil Money

As it turned out, the land they had chosen was rich in oil, and in the early 20th century, members of the tribe became spectacularly wealthy. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoman Collection/Courtesy of Doubleday

Generations ago, the American Indian Osage tribe was compelled to move. Ernest and Mollie Burkhart married in 1917. Unbeknownst to Mollie, a member of the Osage tribe, the marriage was part of a larger plot to steal her family’s oil wealth. They made their new home in a rocky, infertile area in northeast Oklahoma in hopes that settlers would finally leave them alone. Not for the first time, white settlers pushed them off their land in the 1800s. They bought cars and built mansions; they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to “help” them spend it.