Over 200 community members gather to examine Osage history with creators of “In Trust”

Muscogee NationCrimeEventsEducationCommunity Indigenous
Collaborator: Trista Vaughn
Published: 10/24/2023, 4:30 PM
Edited: 10/24/2023, 4:41 PM

(PAWHUSKA, Okla.) Episode one of the investigative podcast "In Trust" (produced by Bloomberg News and iHeartMedia) premiered on September 6, 2022. The series extensively details the legalized theft of Osage wealth, facilitated in part by US policies, with more than seven hours of reporting and interviews. 

On Sunday night, Osage News held “Examining In Trust”, a community dinner and public forum to delve further into historical injustices, including the Reign of Terror, and the ongoing efforts to reclaim land and sovereignty. 

Forum panelists included Bloomberg News reporter Rachael Adams-Heard, KOSU reporter Allison Herrera, Osage Congressman John Maker, White Hair Memorial Director Tara Damron, and OSU Professor Brian Hosmer. The panel was moderated by Osage News Editor Shannon Shaw Duty. 

As much of the extensive documentation of the crimes and injustices committed against the Osage remains, for most, out of reach at archival facilities and oral histories are scattered, it was largely a night of the podcast’s most surprising moments. 

Adams-Heard told attendees this event was her first podcast. She discussed the great impact the series had on her career as a business reporter, as it gave her a much wider lens for reporting.

“I truly could not have done this story without many of the people in this room,” Adams-Heard said. “We dig into people's family financial situations and it is not always met with eagerness.” 

Adams-Heard said the difficulty of tracking fractions of Osage headrights was one of the most surprising aspects of her investigation.

Herrera described the extent of corruption in the county court probate system as one of the most surprising for her, and touched on the financial mismanagement regarding tribal relations that is still happening to this day. 

Congressman Maker talked about growing up in Hominy, and not realizing who really owned the area’s oil. He said he was surprised to find out so many of his ancestors were under Fred G. Drummond’s guardianship, or that the federal government had stepped in to save his grandmother’s estate. 

“We weren’t allowed to ask any of our parents about their businesses,” Congressman Maker said.

But Congressman Maker did know about the graft and corruption through things like “Osage prices”, which his family accounted firsthand.

“They knew it was a legal way to skim money off of these estates,” Congressman Maker said. “And it was a horrible time.”

The Reign of Terror was a significant point of discussion at the event. When asked how many attendees had seen the film “Killers of the Flower Moon” which depicts the Reign of Terror and debuted worldwide the weekend of the event, most raised their hands. 

A good part of the Q & A portion of the event focused on challenges the Osage people face and their ongoing journey toward a better future, including updates on legislation being drafted that would allow non-Osage people to give headrights back to the descendants of original allottees.

Audience members and panelists also engaged in conversation about how this history can extend past the reservation. While education in Oklahoma's K-12 system has its own unique challenges, possible solutions during the discussion included mandatory Osage history at institutions where Osage students are given scholarships to attend. 

Osmer said while the concepts of allotment and guardianship were paraded as ways to help American Indians become more successful, the results were anything but. The reality was those so-called solutions severed American Indian communities and resources.

“Indians were financing their own dissolution,” Osmer said. 

Damron encouraged community members to become more involved at the White Hair Memorial, located in the former home of Lillie Morrell Burkhart, an Osage Indian and descendant of Chief Pawhuska (White Hair). 

“We think about our family members who aren’t here,” Damron said. “We think about our family members and their efforts and their time to make it better for us now. We as young people and this next generation we have to step up and we have to embrace that.”

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Osage News is both a Verified News Network partner and VNN Affiliate.


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