It’s the early 1920s in northeast Oklahoma, and the Osage people are enjoying the trappings of their unusual wealth. Rich from oil, the Osage live in mansions, keep white servants and drive the latest automobiles. But then the members of the tribe start dying in mysterious circumstances, sparking a scandal that still haunts the community to this day.
The story began back in the 1870s, when settlers forced the Osage to leave Kansas and relocate to a rocky patch of land in what is now Oklahoma. Initially, it’s likely that few believed this new reservation held any worth. Within a few decades, though, vast deposits of oil had been discovered beneath the new Osage lands.
Then in 1907, preparations were being made to form the state of Oklahoma. And as part of the negotiations, authorities granted 657 acres of reservation land to each member of the Osage tribe. From that time on, then, any prospectors hoping to gain access to the region’s oil were required to hand over a hefty fee.