Lesson Plan: The Osage Native Americans - Removal, Wealth, Murder

The Osage: Wealth

David Grann talked about the wealth of the Osage Native Americans in the early 1900s.


Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Osage Native American tribe was driven from their land in Kansas. They relocated to Oklahoma and became wealthy due to the abundance of oil found on their property. As they continued to prosper, they became targets of criminal acts, including murder. After twenty-four deaths, the newly formed FBI launched one of its first investigations to solve the crimes. In this lesson, students will learn how this group was driven from their homeland, how they acquired their land in Oklahoma and the effects the oil on their property had on the country as well as their people.


  • Step 1:

    As a class, view the video below to introduce the topic to students.

    Handout: The Osage Native Americans (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: The Osage: Wealth (1:46)

    David Grann talked about the wealth of the Osage Native Americans in the early 1900s.

    Vocabulary: Prospector, Per Capita, Stereotype, Plutocratic

  • Step 2:

    Ask students to view the following videos on the Osage and take notes on the accompanying handout.

    This can be done as an individual or jigsaw activity.

  • Video Clip 2: Oil Rich Land (7:26)

    David Grann talked about how this group acquired their oil rich land and its impact.

    Vocabulary: Squatter, Delegation, Benefactor, Thomas Jefferson, Migrate, Allotment, Assimilation, Communal, Leverage, Subsurface, Headright

    1. What areas of the country did the Osage originally control?

    2. Describe Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with the Osage.

    3. Explain how the Osage were driven from their land.

    4. Explain how the Osage eventually settled in Oklahoma.

    5. How did the Osage maintain control over their oil rich land?

    6. Describe the impact this oil had on the country.
  • Video Clip 3: Reaction to Osage Wealth (5:52)

    David Grann talked about the reaction among people around the country to the wealth of the Osage.

    Vocabulary: Scapegoat, The Great Gatsby, Guardian, Embezzle, Conspiracy

    1. Describe the reaction among people in the country to the Osage wealth.

    2. What action did Congress take?

    3. Explain the unusual events that occurred surrounding Mollie Burkhart's family.
  • Video Clip 4: Crimes Against the Osage (4:59)

    David Grann talked about crimes that were committed against the Osage and the people who were trying to help them.

    Vocabulary: Corrupt, Frontier, Conspiracy, Untainted

    Describe the crimes that were committed against the Osage people as well as the people who were trying to help them.

  • Video Clip 5: The Osage Murders and the FBI (7:55)

    David Grann explains the role of the FBI in the Osage murders including how agents went undercover to solve the crimes.

    Vocabulary: J. Edgar Hoover, Teapot Dome Scandal

    1. Explain how the FBI became involved with the Osage murder cases.

    2. Describe the experiences of the agents and the outcome of their investigations.
  • Step 3:

    Have a student from each group share the information they gained from their video.

    Engage in class discussion on how this group was removed from their homeland, how they gained their property in Oklahoma and the impact the oil on their property had on the country and their people.

    Then, have students select one of the activities below to complete.

  • Culminating Activities:

    1. Write a journal entry from the perspective of a member of the Osage tribe. You may consider including some of the following details: why you had to relocate, how you acquired your new land, your experiences in your new homeland, your interactions with people who were interested in the oil, the subsequent murders of family members and people who were attempting to assist you and the ensuing investigation.

    2. You are an FBI agent investigating the murders. How would you approach solving this crime? Write a report detailing the steps you would take. You may consider interview questions for the people with whom the Osage did business and the names of the family members involved. Conduct some research to find out who was ultimately responsible for the murders and include that information in your report.

Additional Resources


  • Allotment
  • Assimilation
  • Benefactor
  • Communal
  • Conspiracy
  • Corrupt
  • Delegation
  • Embezzle
  • Frontier
  • Guardian
  • Headright
  • J. Edgar Hoover
  • Leverage
  • Migrate
  • Per Capita
  • Plutocratic
  • Prospector
  • Scapegoat
  • Stereotype
  • Subsurface
  • Teapot Dome Scandal
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Untainted


English & LiteratureGeographyState HistoryU.S. History


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