February 3, 2024
David Grann’s bestselling 2017 book Killers of the Flower Moon has won multiple prizes – in both history and thriller categories – and the 2023 movie is following in its footsteps with several awards and 10 Oscar nominations to its credit.
This spring, South Dakotans will have a chance to examine the story in more depth through two Community Read discussion programs hosted by the South Dakota State University School of English and Interdisciplinary Studies. These events, along with a film screening, are sponsored by an SDHC grant to provide opportunities for reflection leading up to a lecture by Grann, “The Arc of Justice.”
All events are open to the public and take place in Brookings, with the Community Read discussions on February 27 and March 19 being livestreamed for virtual participants, as well. Registration for the film screening, March 27, and Grann’s lecture, April 5, will be announced soon.
Books are available for checkout at the Brookings Public Library, SDSU’s Briggs Library, and some Siouxland Public Libraries branches. They are also for sale at many local bookstores and are reasonably priced ($9.86) for purchase on Amazon.com.
To draw youth and Native communities into the conversation, copies of Killers of the Flower Moon will be distributed to Brookings High School and Mickelson Middle School, as well as to each of the state’s tribal colleges and high schools, said Jason McEntee, director of the School of English and Interdisciplinary Studies.
“Through these projects, we hope to strengthen our relationships with both the Brookings community and our tribal communities, specifically the tribal academic communities,” he said. “By coming together through a community read and film screening, we intend to create a dialogue that promotes the value of literature and film in helping us understand the human condition, including, in this case, instances when atrocities take place.”
Killers of the Flower Moon tells the true story of the Osage “Reign of Terror” in the 1920s, during which tribal members were murdered in a vast conspiracy to overtake their oil-rich land. As the death toll mounted, the FBI took up the case and badly bungled the initial investigation. Ultimately, a new team armed with the latest techniques of detection infiltrated the region and exposed the conspiracy.
McEntee feels the story is unusually rich with material for education and conversation. “The reason we’re doing two community read discussions is that the book is packed with so many different angles of inquiry,” he said.
“The main theme is a previously overlooked and very problematic pattern in American history, the systematic genocide of American Indians. But it also fits into legal studies, including the birth of the FBI and forensics; politics and political corruption; organized crime; tribal politics and traditions; and issues of land use as it relates to harvestable commodities such as oil.”
McEntee also expects to address complex issues of federal jurisdiction on reservations, as well as the “devastating love story” of Mollie Kyle and Ernest Burkhart, which was centered much more prominently in the movie than in the book.
McEntee and fellow Professor of English Sharon Smith will lead the Community Read discussions. They are co-teaching the course “The Western in Literature and Film,” which will include the Killers of the Flower Moon book and movie.
Killers of the Flower Moon Event Series
- Feb. 27, 7 p.m., SDSU Rotunda D – Community Read Discussion #1 – Virtual access at https://sdstate.zoom.us/j/93242519548
- March 19, 7 p.m., SDSU Rotunda D – Community Read Discussion #2 – Virtual access at https://sdstate.zoom.us/j/98431730960
- March 27, 5 p.m., Brookings Cinema 8 – Killers of the Flower Moon Movie Screening
- April 5, 7 p.m., Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center – “The Arc of Justice” with David Grann
For more information, contact Jason McEntee at Jason.McEntee@sdstate.edu
Grann appeared at the 2023 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood. His sessions, “Writing about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons” and “How History Talks: Stories that Won’t Be Silenced,” can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL90dBfiCdBgxU6ipgVUDol1NRcfqPU21u
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