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Opinion. There was excitement in the air on Sunday, March 10, as some 250 attendees arrived at the Osage Casino in Pawhuska, Okla. They were there for the Osage Oscar Watch Party to watch the 96th Academy Awards, for which Killers of the Flower Moon —the true-story of the Osage Murders — was nominated. 

The film received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Song for Osage tribal citizen Scott George and the Osage Traveling Singers, Best Score for the late Robbie Robertson, and Best Actress for Lily Gladstone (Blackfeet and Nimíipuu). 

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Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorcese and staring Gladstone alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, is based on David Grann’s 2017 bestselling non-fiction book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” The film unveils the story of the Osage, who, because of oil on their allotted lands in Oklahoma, became some of the world’s wealthiest people per capita. During the 1920s, dozens of Osage died under mysterious circumstances. In many cases, those circumstances turned out to be murder.

Some in attendance at the  Osage Oscar Watch Party were descendants of murder victims. Some had been hired to be extras in the epic film. 

“Killers of the Flower Moon” concentrates on the family of Mollie Burkhart, played by 37-year-old Gladstone,  whose family members were murdered for their oil rights.

The film was released to a national audience late last October. In early January, Gladstone won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture. She is the first Native American ever to win a Golden Globe award.

On January 23, she was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. The excitement around Gladstone intensified when she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in February.

Through Gladstone’s remarkable winning streak, her popularity spread throughout Indian Country. She represents a generation of Native talent that seems to be having a moment. Using her success to shine a spotlight on Indian Country, Gladstone walked the award circuit red carpets wearing gowns and jewelry made by Native American designers.

Osage citizen Erica Pretty Eagle Moore, who played a mother in the film during a naming ceremony with her own baby, recalled the first time she watched the film.

“I had instant tears of joy from the start. I loved it. And I appreciated the way they wrote the story. It brings me to tears every time I watch it,” Moore said in an interview with Native News Online.

Margo Gray (Osage), a former member of the Osage Minerals Council and current executive director of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, appeared in the film several times as an extra. Her great-grandfather, Henry Roan, was murdered at the age of 40 in February of 1923. In the film,, he was played by the First Nation’s actor William Belleau, known for the Twilight saga. 

“This was my family’s story and I was cast in it. I had some scenes when I sat next to my great-grandfather, played by William Belleau. So they were amazing surreal moments for me,” Gray said to Native News Online. “We (the Osage) had developed a relationship with Leonardo DeCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese whose attention to detail, wanting to get it right, was so important to our community.”

Gray said she felt joy when she saw the movie. 

“I believe the film captures the gravity of the moment — of what was happening at that time. We are not just talking about one homicide, but by some estimates, up to 300 murders. There was real fear among our community back then,” Gray said.

Gladstone did not win the Oscar on Sunday night. The award went to actress Emma Stone for her role in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things. It was as if the air went out of the room when Stone’s name was called.

Even though Gladstone did not get the Oscar by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, for Native Americans across Indian Country, Gladstone was indeed a winner. She has won the hearts of young and old, male and female, for representing the vast talent that has existed among Native people for generations. 

For me, just being among the descendants of those lost and those so integrally involved in the making of Killers of the Flower Moon was a humbling experience. As a Potawatomi man, I thought about the many Osage citizens who were manipulated, robbed, and murdered. 

Killers of the Flower Moon exposed the tragedy of it all. And, Gladstone remains our hero.

Thayék gde nwéndëmen - We are all related.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].