WSU Invites Award Winning Author to Discuss Conspiracy, Impact of Osage Murders

OGDEN, Utah – New York Times Bestselling author David Grann will delve into the little-known history of the murders of Osage Indians as he speaks at Weber State University Nov. 7 at 11:30 a.m. in Elizabeth Hall Room 229.

Grann is the author of the National Book Award finalist “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” The book tells the story of the murders of more than two dozen members of the Osage Nation. Uncovering the conspiracy to steal the wealth of the Osage became the FBI’s first successful high-profile investigation.

Grann’s new book, “The White Darkness,” a true story about Henry Worsley who in 2015 walked across Antarctica alone, is set for release Oct. 30. Grann also wrote the story of 78-year-old bank robber Forrest Tucker, which ran in “The New Yorker’ magazine, and is the basis for Robert Redford’s latest movie “The Old Man and the Gun.”

WSU’s Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality invited Grann to speak as part of this year’s Engaged Learning Series.

“Grann’s book examines the ways in which racial prejudices are manifest through the economy,” said Mike Vaughan, center director. “The book illustrates the extent to which egregious actions have shaped the distribution of wealth in the United States.”

Grann’s work takes the reader back to 1920s Oklahoma where the Osage had become the richest people per capita in the world thanks to the discovery of oil on their land. As the Osage’s wealth increased, the federal government required all full-blooded Osage to have white guardians that controlled their money. More white settlers soon moved to the area, many of whom married into Osage families. Before long, many Osage were murdered. Appeals to local authorities to investigate the murders were in vain due to corruption of law enforcement, politicians and judges.

To find justice, the Osage appealed to the federal government to investigate the murders. The investigation was turned over to an obscure and untested branch of the justice department: the FBI. Under the leadership of newly-appointed director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was able to infiltrate the Osage community with a team of undercover agents. It was not long before the FBI had uncovered a complex conspiracy by white settlers in the area to kill members of the Osage Nation and steal their wealth. Many of the perpetrators were those who had married into Osage families.

“These were deeply intimate crimes, and that’s what makes it so barbaric,” Grann said in an April 2017 interview with NPR. “These were crimes committed by people who the victims trusted, and in many cases thought they loved. It involved a level of betrayal, an almost Shakespearean level of dishonesty of hiding your face, to hide the conspiracy.”

The speech is free and open to the campus community.

Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality

Weber State University’s Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality is an interdisciplinary educational center that seeks to further the understanding of the extent, causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in Utah and the United States. The center offers courses, lectures and programs relevant to those issues of poverty and inequality.

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Engaged Learning Series

Sponsored by the Center for Community Engaged Learning, the Engaged Learning Series is a university-wide series of events designed to engage students, faculty, staff and community in discussion, debate, dialogue, learning and action around an issue of public concern. For 2018-19, the series aims to raise awareness, impact personal behavior and increase public engagement around the theme “Matter of Fact?”

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Mike Vaughan, Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality director
801-626-7308 •


Ross Rosier, Office of Marketing & Communications
801-626-7948 •