Friday, February 24, 2006

The Osage Indian Murders and the Legend of Pine Ridge

"Found: In May 1921, the badly decomposed body of Anna Brown—an Osage Native American—in a remote ravine in northern Oklahoma. The undertaker later discovered a bullet hole in the back of her head. Anna had no known enemies, and the case went unsolved ..."--the FBI (1-26-05)

UPDATE: See my 1-4-09 article about the Osage Murders.

During the 1920s, a gang of white criminals led by William Hale, the "King of Osage," began to murder the wealthy Osage Indians of Oklahoma for their oil headrights. Some white people who were married to Indians or who tried to tell the government what was going on were also murdered.

During the 1920s, the Osage were the richest people in the world. Each Osage owned a percentage of the tribe's oil wealth called a "headright." Because many of the Osage were not well-educated, they often had "guardians" who managed their fortunes. Sometimes these people were crooks who stole their wards' fortunes.

Lawrence Hogan's excellent book, The Osage Indian Murders, tells the story of the murders. Hogan worked for the FBI and based his book on the FBI files on these crimes and other published sources. [UPDATE 1-11-09] This book used to be sold by the Osage on their official site because it is a famous time in their history, which they call the "Reign of Terror," but now the book is out of print. Some copies may be available at the Osage County Historical Museum Bookstore and from booksellers that work with Amazon.

Mr. Hogan was also a Republican Congressman from Maryland from 1969-1975. According to the Ponca City News (7-21-98), Mr. Hogan spoke about his book in in 1998 at the Ponca City Library [Scroll down to "Former FBI Man Will Discuss ‘The Osage Indian Murders’']:

The FBI was brought onto the case at the formal request of the Osage tribal council. FBI Agents were assigned to follow the leads, but many leads were planted to throw them off the scent. Several agents assumed undercover roles, and these agents in particular were constantly in danger. After several years, arrests were made and a number of people were brought to justice. [Ponca City News 7-21-98]

The declassified FBI files on the Osage Indian Murders are on-line. Here is how the FBI introduces this file:

Between 1921 and 1923, several members of the Osage Indian Reservation died under suspicious circumstances. The FBI became involved after the Department of Interior wrote to Director William J. Burns requesting assistance in investigating these deaths. William "King of Osage" Hale was suspected of being involved in the deaths. Posing as medicine men, cattlemen, and salesmen, FBI agents infiltrated the reservation and solved the murders. Hale and other members of the Osage Indian Tribe were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, It was determined that the murders were committed in an attempt to collect insurance money and gain control of valuable oil properties owned by the deceased persons.

[CORRECTION to FBI summary: This summary gives the incorrect impression that Hale was a member of the Osage Nation when it says that "Hale and other members of the Osage Indian Tribe were convicted" of killing Osage Indians.This is probably a clerical error. As the documents show, the people who were convicted of killing the Osage were white criminals, not Indians.]

As the FBI summary notes, "the Osage were dying under suspicious curcumstances. The murders often were staged to look like alcohol or automobile accidents." Still, too many people were dying, and some people were shot in the back of the head or blown up in their homes. According to Hogan:

Nearly two dozen Osage Indians died under suspicious circumstances. The entire Osage Tribe, as well as their white neighbors, was horror-stricken and in desperate fear for their lives (Hogan xiii).

The criminals, who were evidently accepted as members of the community, even married innocent, young, Indian women and killed their relatives or husbands in order to get control of the Indian families' fortunes. Young Indian wives were even poisoned so that their their deaths would appear to be illness-related.

For example, a young Indian wife, Mollie Burkhart, "was the innocent conduit in the murderers' quest for their victims' headrights. Her debilitating sickness, apparently from slow poisoning, was cured when FBI agents removed her from Osage County" (Hogan 122).

A reputed criminal, Henry Grammer, died in a suspicious car accident when the steering mechanism became unmanageable. In spite of the fact that he had a gunshot wound under his arm, no investigation was conducted. The rumor was that Grammer "knew too much" (Hogan 72-73).

The Osage leaders noticed that too many people were dying and had their lawyers contact the Bureau of Investigation, the predecessor organization of today's FBI.

The FBI went into the community openly and undercover to gather information from the Indians. Eventually, the FBI arrested the "mastermind" of the Osage murders, William K. Hale. One of the agents, who posed as an Indian medicine man, was part Indian himself. Other FBI agents posed as cattlemen, cowboys, oil prospectors, and insurance salesmen.

These underover agents gathered information from people who were afraid to be seen by criminals talking to known FBI agents.

Once the criminals were arrested, more people came forward to tell what they knew (Hogan 86). Fear had kept them silent.

Hale had used his nephews and an outlaw named John Ramsey to actually commit the murders. The criminals planted false rumors and lies to mislead the FBI and make them rundown false leads; but in the end, the FBI prevailed.

According to Hogan:

One salient result of the trials convicting the murderers was to strengthen the confidence in federal law enforcement authorities and to indicate to the lawless element, when the federal government takes up a matter, it follows it to a successful conclusion (Hogan 86).

The University of Colorado professor, Ward Churchill, has written an apocrypal account of events that occured on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. As noted in my first post, first Churchill claimed that FBI-backed death squads murdered 342 Indians on Pine Ridge. He published this in a 1985 issue of The Covert Action Information Bulletin, a publication which was started by a CIA defector and influenced by the Soviet Union [See my first post called "342 Indians"].

Later, in Chapter 7 of The Cointelpro Papers [Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States by Churchill & Jim Vander Wall South End Press ISBN 0-89608-359-4], Churchill claimed that more that 60 people "died violently" and that 342 were assaulted:

"[M]ore than sixty AIM members and supporters died violently on or in locations immediately adjacent to the Pine Ridge Reservation. A minimum of 342 others suffered violent physical assaults." [Ch. 7 Cointelpro Papers]

On this Free Peltier Internet site, Churchill claims that the FBI are terrorists:

[T]he murders occurred amidst a concerted campaign of repression conducted by the FBI against the American Indian Movement on Pine Ridge during the mid-70s, that the 57 victims consist almost entirely of AIM members and supporters (or their children), and that the perpetrators, where they've been identified, consist primarily of known members of the so-called GOON Squad (or GOONs; the self-proclaimed "Guardians of the Oglala Nation," an FBI-alligned paramilitary organization active on the reservation during the period). A major contention of those involved in preparing and disseminating the list to which the FBI report supposedly responds is that the killings often amounted not simply to murders, but to a pattern of officially sponsored terrorism.

Churchill's Free Peltier Internet article echoes the Osage murders story when he claims that a "reign of terror" [was] "fostered by the Bureau on Pine Ridge."

Churchill's articles and books about Pine Ridge make allegations that reminded me of the story of the Osage murders that I had vaguely remembered from a childhood teacher and from my father, whose family roots were in Arkansas and Oklahoma. My memory was refreshed when I found the FBI account of the Osage Indian Murders.

Churchill makes allegations that these deaths were murders that went uninvestigated. He claims that, as in the Osage story, this era is called a "reign of terror."

Ward Churchill is being investigated by the University of Colorado at Boulder for plagiarism, but my research on the "Legend of Pine Ridge" and its similarities to the Osage Indian Murders predates the CU investigation. I wasn't really investigating Ward Churchill at all. I was researching the JonBenet Ramsey murder. JonBenet was the little girl who was murdered on December 25-26, 1996, in the basement of her Boulder home. Until I began investigating this child-murder, I had never heard of Ward Churchill. But more about JonBenet, later.

Churchill's account of the deaths on Pine Ridge is very reminiscent of the Osage Indian Murders: it recounts a story of suspicious uninvestigated murders during a "reign of terror."

There is one big difference, of course. Churchill depicts the FBI as criminal masterminds and terrorists who back death squads.Churchill's depiction of the FBI is consistent with the mission of the Covert Action Information Bulletin: to discredit the CIA and FBI.

I think that Ward Churchill's account of the events on Pine Ridge is not scholarship, but communist propaganda that is designed to make Indians and all Americans distrust the FBI.
Churchill doesn't care anything about the Indians that he exploits with his ideological poison.

In my opinion, Churchill couldn't stand the historical fact that the FBI struggled to get justice for these murdered Osage and their families, so he cannibalized the true Osage history and reworked it into a communist myth, a "Frankenstein's monster" that I call his "Legend of Pine Ridge."

My article is a work in progress and will be developed/corrected...

A pro-Churchill, pro-terrorist blog at is writing that I should somehow manage to die. Tryworks makes fun of me. They try to make readers laugh at me. They call me a moron and a lunatic. They try to intimidate me. The one thing they can't do, is debate me. They miscalculated and invited me to post so that they could show how stupid I was, but when I posted my evidence, they got afraid and banned me.

Well, I don't care about the threats and name-calling. I have free speech, too, and I intend to keep it that way. I am going to show how Churchill kidnapped and deformed American Indian history....and more!

All of the above is Snapple's opinion.


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