The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil

by Website Editors | May 5, 2023

The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil explores the impacts that sudden wealth from the discovery of oil on their land had on the Oklahama Osage, making them financially better off than other Native Americans because of their tribally held oil and gas rights. This is an insightful study based on a variety of sources.



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Author: Terry P. Wilson
Publisher: University of Nebraska (1985)


Originally the Osage Indian reservation, Osage County in Oklahoma is the site of one of the richest oil reserves in the United States. Oil was discovered beneath the reservation in 1897. When the Osages were forced to accept individual allotments of land a decade later, they wisely insisted on tribal ownership of subsurface minerals—a decision that made their history unlike that of any other Indian group and earned them a reputation as the richest tribe in the world.

In The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil, Terry P. Wilson explores for the first time the effects of oil wealth on the Osage Indians. While considering the tribe’s relations with the federal government, the study focuses on the Osages’ interactions with local non-Indians as well as on tribal politics—particularly the cultural and political rift between full-bloods and mixed-bloods that continues to the present day. Tracing that split to the pre-reservation period, Wilson shows how it has been exacerbated by and altered by the events of the twentieth century. In addition, he compellingly documents another fact of modern Osage life: lawlessness, corruption, and occasional violence. Contrary to popular belief, he argues, the notorious happenings in Osage County in the 1920s were not passing phenomena of a chaotic decade; they were part and parcel of a long history of systemic exploitation of the Osages by the majority culture.

About the Author: Terry P. Wilson

Terry P. Wilson, a native of El Reno, Oklahoma, is a former Department Chair and retired professor of Native American Studies at the University of California in Berkley. He served as coordinator of Indian culture at Eastern Montana College and professor of history at Southwestern State University in Oklahoma. He is the author of several books on American Indians, including The Osage: Indians of North America, Teaching American Indian History and The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil, and coeditor of Peoples of Color in the American West.

Pick up your own copy of The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil, here.

Interested in learning more? Check out our list of Recommended Books about the Osage People.

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1 Comment

  1. Curious how little discussion was generated back in the early 1980’s when my favorite Prof at U.C.-Berkeley during my undergrad years, Terry Wilson, had published on the U.C. Press and it still remains in print this very book you here do us all a service within these United States of Amnesia\Alzheimer’s by re-membering for U.S. all: The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil and Mineral Rights…

    Terry Wilson had already established his youthful academic career by researching and patiently publishing his studies on and titled THE OSAGE.

    I almost added an extra “S” at the end of that first book title as whenever Prof Wilson lectured to the packed lecture halls at U.C.-Berkeley in his Will Rogers way of using humor to help make the bile go down easier at our national institutionalization of New World genocide and larceny on a scale only dreamed of in the Olde Worlde, he was conscious and careful to recall the his\herstorical First Nations’ almost mytho-poetic odyssey and saga in the plural, indeed Terry almost always referred to them as The Osages for the breadth of internal First Nations’ tribal demarcations, trends of thought and familial lines…

    Now that Hollywood has gotten around long past their swords and sandals phase of exploitation to issuing filmmaker Martin Scorcese’s by most accounts careful and respectful adaptation of David Grann’s more recent history of the Osage Nation titled Killers of the Flower Moon (the book was fully and revealingly titled: Killers of the Flower Moon – The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI) perhaps somewhere online beyond the reaches of Cyberia I’ve been scanning, the research and exposition presented by Prof Terry P Wilson back in the early 1980’s will be put to better use.

    Especially should the paperwork jostle the docket of Israel’s and their sponsor in the U.S. branch of Daddy Warbucks’ genocidal job on Gaza aka A’aza\The Hot Place at the International Criminal Court of The Hague now that South Africa has filed a court case against their former partner in Apartheid (during the global boycott of South Africa pre-Nelson Mandela and rise of ANC era) and former close allies within the torn Israeli governing coalition of Fascists and Neo-Liberal Economic territorial maximalists during this phase of a different global boycott unique to civilized displeasure at the goings on within and without the Muddle East aka dba BDS…..

    Terry P Wilson seems to be alive and should make for an interesting guest alongside Hollywood’s hottest author of the moment in David Grann (after Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon we may remain skeptical of any big screen undertaking …no pun intended…of a revisionist History of the FBI). Neither his\herstorical author has been very much sourced previous to the big screen adaptation now contending for Academy Awards as well as International Film Awards within the Golden Rolodex of corporate-captured U.S. public interest and private interest-captured dba corporate captured broadcast interests of our nation’s Pay2Play Mass Communications\Her-Historical Veracity certifying industries. Or, of that related industry that consists of preventing any industrial scaled revisionist works pertaining to the Military and Industrial complexes that comprise that state-less entity known as and dba Daddy Warbucks, LLP.

    Mitch Ritter\Paradigm Sifters, Code Shifters, PsalmSong Chasers
    Lay-Low Studios, Ore-Wa (Refuge of Atonement Seekers)
    Media Discussion List\LookseeInnerEarsHearHere


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