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The Osage Nation is moving forward but not forgetting a violent past

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The Osage Nation is moving forward but not forgetting a violent past

PAWHUSKA, Okla. (KTUL) - The best-selling book "Killers of the Flower Moon" is soon going to be made into a movie and members of the Osage Nation believe it should be made where it happened.

Osage County, northwest of Tulsa, was the scene of one of the worst and boldest crime sprees in U.S. history.

The killing only ended when the FBI stepped in and Congress banned the transfer of the tribe's oil rights to their white neighbors.

In the collection of the Osage Nation Museum, there's a portrait of the four Kyle sisters.

They are seated side-by-side and staring straight ahead.

It has a ghostly feel and that's appropriate, because three of the sisters would later be murdered.

Only Mollie Kyle would survive, because she became suspicious and took steps to protect herself.

Many prominent Osage citizens were killed for their wealth.

Between 1921 and 1925, at least 60 tribal members were murdered.

Former Osage Judge Marvin Stepson believes his grandfather was among them.

Stepson said, "Legend has it, that he'd come in after drinking with some friends, laid down, went to sleep and died. Died in his sleep. I don't know about that."

The death of William Stepson was never investigated as a homicide and his grandson has never seen a death certificate, but he believes William was poisoned with strychnine.

"It's awful, so he may have died a horrible death. He was 27, 28 years old, ya know. He was kinda just starting his life."

When the Osage were squeezed into their current part of their ancestral lands, they did a lot better than most tribes.

They ended up with some of the best grazing land on earth, but when an ocean of oil was found underneath it, it was both a blessing and a curse.

Tribal members share their oil profits, and they became the richest people on earth but that wealth sparked jealousy and greed on the part of their white neighbors.

At that time, the federal government wouldn't allow the Osage to handle their own money. They were murdered by their white spouses or court-appointed guardians to steal their oil rights.

The Stepson family held on to their oil rights, but he said he will never forget what happened.

He said he still faces some of the same prejudices in the 21st century.

"It's just in the back of my head. I know it's there. I can see stuff that a lot of other people can't see. They treat you differently, and it's very, very subtle."

Due to their history, the Osage have a heart-felt determination to protect their lands and their people.

Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said it will never happen again, but they don't hold a grudge against the descendants of their persecutors.

"Everyone deserves a chance, and we look at where people may come from, but we don't hold it against them. We judge them by what they do today," Standing Bear said.

Addie Roan Horse lost her great-great grandfather to the violence, but she said that time is past.

"We weren't raised that way, to carry any kind of hatred like that or regret. It's too big of a burden to carry," Roan Horse said.

Her great-great grandfather Henry is among the many victims who are buried at the remote Grey Horse Cemetery near Fairfax.

It has too many headstones from the early 1920s.

While the Osage Nation wants to move on, they'll keep their guard up and remember the hard lessons of those times.

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