Not too long ago our local bookstore, The Bookshelf, hosted a Book Club Fair–an inspired way to connect readers with other readers and, specifically, book clubs in the area. I signed up for a few of them (whether I stick with all of them every month remains to be seen, but I’m giving them all a fair shot before I decide).
One club is one I’ve been meaning to get to for months, Stitches and Stories. It’s a joint effort with The Bookshelf and Fuzzy Goat and it’s such a low-key book club meets Knit Night that it’s just too awesome to pass up. They play the beginning of an audiobook (via Libro.fm, an audiobook distributor that allows a portion of your purchase to go to the independent book store of your choice) while you knit, crochet, etc. and then there’s a discussion of the story so far, whether people think they might read or listen to it on their own afterwards, etc. They also ask if anyone completed the previous month’s book, but it’s still super low pressure.
There are two more traditional book-clubs that I signed up for, as well (and a third that specializes in YA books but it’s on hiatus still), and they’re both reading the same book for March:
Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
by David Grann
I’ve finished the book and, as the first of the two clubs meets tonight, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the book, for good or ill, before meeting with the group(s). I’m also revisiting the Five Senses project I came up with a while back and maybe I’ll be able to keep that going since I’ll be reading more meaty books for the clubs 🙂
First impression: The title filled me with a tiny bit of dread that the book would be heavy and depressing. I mean, yes, I read a lot of murder mysteries and frequently go through WWII-era kicks, not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff, there. But there’s something about the prospect of reading about the many and varied ways our forefathers attempted to eradicate yet another indigenous people was not a thrilling one. Murder mysteries (and even WWII narratives) have a common thread of justice being served, the bad guys caught/punished, etc. Would the same truly be the case in this book, I wondered?
Yes and no. Without going into too much detail, it wasn’t the genocide that I’d feared from my first impression, but it was pretty heavy. I knew pretty much nothing about the Osage Nation before reading this book and, as a white, middle class woman I’m struck by the guilt of privilege reading how depraved the men and women of that time and place were to go to such levels (poisoning, execution, or even the systematic disenfranchisement that went on) to strip them of their mineral rights, the one “consolation”–if you can even look at it that way–of being forcibly uprooted and relocated as so many other tribes were before being winnowed out.
And while some were caught and prosecuted, the author (a reporter) goes into the murders that were not solved (often covered up by those in power at the time, if they were even reported) and develops a theory as to which parties might have also taken part in the events that all come down to one thing: greed.
So, yeah, that was a fun read…. not. But there’s always something to be gleaned, and this is where the Five Senses project comes in.
One of the first connections I made while reading Killers of the Flower Moon has little to do with the Osage and more to do with the Cherokee, namely the Land Run of 1823, which took place after the lands the Cherokee had settled on went through the process of allotment: the government parcels out the land to each tribe member in 160-acre parcels and the unassigned lands were (simplifying the process here) opened to settlers to claim. A similar thing was proposed to the Osage but they, fortunately, had better representation and the territory was divided equally among the Osage and there was a provision about while the land could be sold, the mineral rights could only be acquired through inheritance.
At any rate, the land run made me think of the movie Far and Away (Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, 1992) where a similar land run is featured at the end (the movie is 26 years old, I think we can dispense with the spoiler warning). I wondered it if was, by chance, the same one and yes, it indeed was. Of course no mention is made about how the land came to be available, so watch it with a fresh perspective if it’s been a while since you last saw it.
Another option is The FBI Story (Jimmy Stewart, 1959). This one I haven’t seen but was mentioned in the book as it was a bit of a puff piece and love letter to J Edgar Hoover, it does at least mention the Osage murders as it was this investigation that helped solidify support of a federal branch of law enforcement.
Finally, in the latter part of the book an Osage ballet is mentioned–Wahzhazhe–and it’s actually available to watch online through the Osage Ballet website.
Cherokee by Europe–no, sorry, that’s a poor attempt at a touch of levity for a book that really had so few (if any?!) light moments.
On a more serious note, if you’re at all interested in learning to pronounce the Osage names correctly, I’ve found an Osage Pronunciation Guide that may be of some help in the front.
Also, any oral history projects out there–Osage or otherwise–would be an illuminating listen if you can find them.
Find either a class or online project sheet to create something in the Native American style. Be it weaving, leatherwork, pottery, or basket-weaving, there are plenty of options out there.
Case in point, and a bit of coincidence or serendipity at play, my local History Center is hosting a Cherokee Double-Bottom Basket workshop in a couple of weeks and I’d signed up for it before I even started reading this month’s book. I’m quite looking forward to it!
Like a lot of Americans, I have a sliver of Native American ancestry a few generations back. I don’t know which tribe she was a part of, but my great-great-great (I think that’s right) grandmother on my mom’s side was named Lottie Youngblood, for whatever that’s worth. The only shred of relevance that has, here, is that growing up, we’d go home to visit family, and PawPaw would make us Fried Bread at least once a visit as a treat.
I’m fairly certain that his Fried Bread (a sort of biscuit dough fried in hot grease) is actually a take on Fry Bread, for which there are plenty of recipes online.
This one is tough because smells didn’t figure heavily in the story. So for smell I’m going to suggest using bundled sage as incense or to smudge your home. You can find sage bundles in crystal or New Age shops, some natural health care sorts of shops, and (of course) online. One of my local shops, Smith Collective, offers smudge bundles online.