OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A brand new exhibit is open at the Oklahoma History Center that presents items and information from the reign of terror on Osage Native Americans back in the 1920s.

“The best thing that can happen from it is conversations,” said the center’s director of collections Jeff Briley. “What are we going to say to each other? What is going to be the end result of this?”

The exhibit is called Trust and Betrayal in Osage Country.

"Reign of Terror" exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center. Image KFOR.
“Reign of Terror” exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center. Image KFOR.

“We wanted to give visitors to the museum a little bit of an overview and an opportunity to discover other resources, but also see some material culture items from the Osage of the last century,” Briley said.

The pocket exhibit as it’s called gives a glimpse into the story of dozens of horrific murders of Osage Native Americans in the 1920s.

Some research suggests hundreds may have been killed as local authorities didn’t investigate most of the crimes. But the exhibit also discusses the paradox of the state at the time of the murders. Specifically, it details that with the creation of our state flag by a young artist from Ponca City named Louise Fluke’s. She entered into a statewide contest to design it. She ended up using Osage leader Black Dog II shield on it in what we see today as Oklahoma’s state flag. The original from well over 100 years ago is also on display.

“So the idea that, on the one hand, we’re cherishing the indigenous peoples of Oklahoma and across the county line, the FBI is just into their first year of this investigation of what is horrible on a truly monumental scale,” Briley said.

Other items and narratives are also on display. However, Briley said the goal isn’t to retell the whole reign of terror story over again. As he originally said, it’s only to start conversations and keep them going.

“It will open these pathways to good conversation and a more realistic understanding is everything we want,” he said.

The exhibit will be on display in the ONEOK Inc. gallery until March 1, 2024.

For more information, visit okhistory.org.