The Legacy of Big Oil
I grew up in this part of the nation and was acquainted with Indians of the region but never dreamed such an evil genocide existed so near to home and recent history. Grann researched the accounts of this story in regards to Indian oil in Oklahoma. I recall my grandfather telling me stories of rich Indians getting drunk and driving their Cadillacs into barbed wire fences. The relocated Indian tribe was moved to a region that is just north of Tulsa. The land was not valuable and thus an easy choice to grant to resettling Native Americans. As fate would have it, the land sat over a huge pool of crude oil. The tribe became reach beyond their dreams. They had fleets of new cars, servants, and bank accounts hard to keep track of. The government grew concerned about a peoples who went from poverty to extreme wealth over night. Local stories abound about Indians who bought new cars if the older one got a flat. Government attorneys were hired to restrict spending and to supervise the local Indians. This led to corruption. The abuse of Native Americans would go beyond mere "supervison."
The really strange story is the account of murders. There was bombings, assassinations, poisoning and even arranged marriages to whites to gain access to the fortune. Murders were numbered anywhere from 20 to 60 depending on the sources. There were almost no convictions of the criminals that committed the acts. There were even accounts of the murder of investigators who dared to dig into the details of such grizzly acts.
This all happened in the twenties in Northeast Oklahoma. This was only a few short years after the legacy of what many claim was the greatest athlete ever in America.....Jim Thorpe. Thorpe, an American Indian, grew up a short distance from where this took place. The idea that a popular star such as Thorpe would find in a few years after his Olympic feats such a genocide of local Indians in his state is astounding.
Federal help is solicited to deal with criminal acts that are not being punished nor stopped. The young FBI is sought out and their new leader, J. Edgar Hoover, led the charge to enforce the law. Agents did the work but Hoover took all the credit according to historians. Hoover began his legacy with this story. This foundation work led to a powerful organization that gunned down Cathy Ainsworth, a female American terrorists, the use of questionable methods to deal with the Klan, and the blackmailing of American Presidents. I just saw a documentary of how Hoover pressured the Kennedys with his tapes on Kennedy infidelities. Frank Sinatra, because of his association in the past with Mafia figures, was shunned by his friends, the Kennedys, because of Hoover.
The connection with big oil and the Religious Right is filled with volumes of documented accounts. Some of the big oil tycoons also gained access to oil through shady dealings. Many if not most of them were crude and illiterate individuals with little moral restraint. Robert Wuthnow's work, Rough Country is the latest is a series of revelations. Earlier Harry Hurt wrote Texas Rich. Rice historian Chandler Davidson added his book, Race and Class in Texas Politics. Brian Burrough's The Big Rich is another account of how big oil money is connected with Religious Right expanses. Big oil has landed the United States its current Secretary of State.
Jim Thorpe's third wife was in charge of his funeral arrangements. She was bribed to take the remains of Thorpe and have him buried in Pennsylvania. There is a town there named after the famous athlete who attended Carlisle college in the state. Oklahoma residents have filed court cases to have his remains returned to his home state. Thorpe had never even been to this town that claims his name. The remains of several Indians can be found in Osage County with strange revelations from markings on grave stones that so many died during this time period at a young age. It is a sad reminder of how oil money is often stained with blood.
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