Cover of Deaths of Sybil Bolton

Deaths of Sybil Bolton

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Chicago Review Press

2020

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978-1-64160-417-8

1-64160-417-4

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Dennis McAuliffe Jr., a journalist, grew up believing that his Osage Indian grandmother, Sybil Bolton, had died an early death in 1925 from kidney disease. But sixty-six years later, he learns by chance that the cause was a gunshot wound. Investigating the circumstances, he soon finds himself peeling away the layers of a suppressed nightmare chapter of American history: the unspeakable brutality of the "Osage Reign of Terror." He learns that Sybil was the victim not of random violence but of a systematic killing spree in the 1920s, carried out by white residents of Oklahoma against the oil-rich Osage Nation. White men descended upon the reservation, courting, marrying-and murdering-Osage women to gain control over their money. McAuliffe is forced to suspect that his own grandfather engineered Sybil's murder. The book uncovers the full extent of the crimes committed against the Osages: how white lawyers appointed by Congress to protect the Osages systematically swindled the tribe; how a ring of prominent and envious whites poisoned or shot possibly hundreds of Osages to seize their oil wealth-and then papered over the Reign of Terror with doctored death certificates; and how solving the mystery of his grandmother's death led McAuliffe to confront the mysteries of his own life. Part murder mystery, part family memoir, part spiritual journey, The Deaths of Sybil Bolton reintroduces us to a people whose story has been literally torn from the volumes of our nation's history.

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