Osage–and Lucky to be Here

Where to start?

I just finished reading Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. I thought first about people I know—people of Osage blood—who are indeed “lucky to be here” in light of what happened in Osage County, Oklahoma in the first decades of the twentieth century.

And then “Osage Outrage” came to mind, as what started out as a novel-paced mystery became a litany of lies, deceit, greed, and cold-blooded murder. A novelist would not have left as many dangling unanswered questions, or so many people dead.

Finally, thoughts that could not be as easily captured in a few words came to mind: “It is a question in my mind,” said an Osage Tribal member prior to trial, “whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder—or merely cruelty to animals.”

“America’s original sin” Read The Article

Happy Thanksgiving

I watched a film on PBS last night, “The Thick Dark Fog.” It is the story of a Lakota man named Walter Littlemoon and his struggle to reclaim his humanity, stolen from him at a boarding school as a five year old on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The man’s a poet—a simple and eloquent speaker, and I will now order his book, They Called Me Uncivilized
And while I wait for the book, I will puzzle over two things. First, as we recovered from the horror of the Holocaust in Europe and watched another again with a sideways glance at Cambodia, cultural genocide was going on under our noses in our own country. Oh, by the mid-sixties, as I came of age, we were probably no longer kidnapping Indian children, cutting their hair, and beating the Indian out of them so that we could make them men and women, but the
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“Noble Savage”

After the last blog on Mildred Bailey and “passing as white,” a friend suggested that it sounded accurate on the one hand, but on the other, why is it that so many Americans claim Indian roots? There are jokes about the number of people with Cherokee great-grandmothers, but when, he asked, have you heard someone obviously “white” claim a slave ancestor from Sierra Leone.

What’s with this contradiction of widespread pride in Indian ancestry—and white America’s disregard for and continuing practice of forgetting Indian history and consciously eradicating Indian culture?

I can’t site a page in a Josephy book or remember a specific conversation, but I know that he believed that, from the earliest days of white settlement, relations with Indians were dominated by a triad of white attitudes toward them: romanticize, kill, or assimilate.

We now know that diseases often preceded actual contact and that millions of indigenous Americans died before they saw a white face. We also know, Read The Article