“In Trust” podcast exposes Osage struggle against crime and corruption

NationalCrimeEducationPoliticsCommunity Indigenous
Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 09/24/2023, 11:09 PM
Edited: 05/09/2024, 7:16 PM

(NATIONAL) Losses of land, wealth, and life have plagued the Osage Nation for the last 100 years following the “Reign of Terror”.

Questions remained about what happened to Osage headrights sitting on a wealth of oil fields and mineral resources, as well as how those who originally owned them ended up dead. 

The answers have only recently started to emerge, thanks to a collaboration between Bloomberg’s Rachel Adams-Heard and KOSU’s Allison Herrera.

The investigative “In Trust '' podcast explores the tragedy of what happened to the Osage people and the impact it still has today, issues brought to national prominence thanks to the upcoming movie Killers of The Flower Moon directed by Martin Scorsese. 

The podcast dives into a list from the early 2000’s, which shows who owned some of those headrights, including non-profits and families like that of Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond. 

“It’s important to remember that when it comes to the Osage Nation and tribal nations across the country, the United States isn’t just a bureaucrat,” said Adams-Heard. “It’s a trustee, a relationship born from the treaties that were signed, and often forced, more than a century ago. It means the federal government has a fiduciary obligation to tribal nations and tribal citizens whose money, land, and mineral rights are held in trust by the US on their behalf.”

The investigation also looks at the way inflation and the rising value of the headrights has been a lost opportunity for generational wealth for the Osage people, and how millions of dollars that belonged to the Osage people ended up in the hands of white people. 

“Can you imagine if we were able to hang on to that fourth of the headrights that have gone out of the tribe, and those dollars got reinvested in our children’s education, or buying land, or building the land up, or protecting our tribal communities in ways that we can’t even imagine,” said Jim Gray, a guest on the “In Trust” podcast and former chief of the Osage Nation. 

The podcast documents the information-gathering process, including the difficult effort of securing the names of non-Osage owners of Headrights, a request that was initially denied by the Federal Government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

It also documents interviews with members of the Drummond family and their knowledge and perspective on the headright situation, as well as audio recordings from Jack Drummond, founder of Drummond Cattle Co., that were recorded with his biographer. 

The Drummond Ranch today includes about 433,000 acres. 

Jack is also remembered for his role at the Drummond family story Hominy Trading Company for his significant mark ups on sales to the Osage people.

And they weren’t just selling goods to the Osage people, Hominy Trading Company also served undertaking needs. 

Records show that the Osage were charged what would be the equivalent today of tens of thousands of dollars for funeral services in the 1920’s. 

The podcast states, “At one point, a US lawmaker heard about the thousands of dollars that Osages were charged for funerals. He said the practice was ‘even worse than the Teapot Dome case,’ which at that time was considered the biggest political scandal in US history.”

The “In Trust” podcast features 10 episodes that crack open the tight-lidded histories of guardianship, the efforts to get some of the headrights back, and the challenges the Osage Nation faced when they tried. 

Produced by Bloomberg News and IHeartRadio, it is available now on Bloomberg, IHeart, Apple and Spotify platforms. 


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