Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


Mollie Burkhart often wears a traditional blanket around her shoulders. Even though most of the Osage have embraced the American styles and values that have permeated their culture, Mollie wraps herself in this traditional Osage object symbolically linking her to heritage. She eschews American culture in other ways, like not changing her long hairstyle to a more fashionable 1920s bob. Mollie is not the only one who sees the blanket as a connection to her Osage past. The school she is forced to attend takes away her blanket, indicating an intolerance for Osage tradition and identity. At the start of the book, when Mollie selects a blanket that coordinates with her modern outfit, she balances the Osage and American cultures. 

Natural Resources 

Natural resources provide the Osage with the means of survival, both before the arrival of European settlers and after the establishment of the United States. Killers of the Flower Moon identifies three resources—buffalo, oil, and wind—and documents how the settlers, later Americans, work to deny the Osage their rightful benefits from nature. Buffalo provided many things the Osage needed to survive. Oil eventually offers yet another way the Osage can acquire life’s necessities and luxuries. The book carefully details how white residents of Oklahoma employ physical violence and legal machinations, or both, to rob the Native Americans of the headrights, the access to the mineral reservoir under their land, that have made them wealthy targets. The author’s inclusion of a legal battle over windmills in the third chronicle makes clear that, even though the buffalo have partially returned, the Osage people’s battle to protect their natural resources and rights is ongoing. [153] 


Poison is responsible for many of the mysterious deaths that strike the Osage and for a variety of unnamed wasting sicknesses. Like the vast conspiracy that terrorizes the Native American community, poison is difficult to detect, particularly when it is delivered slowly over weeks or months. Poison’s prevalence and the fact that anyone could be the next victim creates an atmosphere of terror among the Osage. There is a great deal of irony associated with the use of poison in this history. For example, in Mollie’s case, the poison is hidden in a medicine—insulin—that should save her life. Instead, it almost kills her. Often alcohol is the vehicle that delivers the poison to the intended victim, as in the death of Joe Bates. This connection—alcohol and poison—gains additional ironic resonance from the historical association of liquor with European efforts to cheat Native populations of their lands and rights.