In June of 2015, David Grann visits the Osage Nation again, and is shocked to see that out on the prairie, 400-foot-tall windmills have been erected over more than eight thousand acres—the wind farm is expected to supply power to forty-five thousand homes in Oklahoma soon. The members of the Osage tribe Grann knows, including Kathryn Red Corn, see the windmills as a threat—the company has put them up without securing permission from the Osage Nation. The federal government has filed a lawsuit on the tribe’s behalf, citing—under the terms of the 1906 Allotment Act—that because the company disturbed limestone and other minerals building the foundation for the farm, they must secure permission from the tribe before going any farther with it.
Grann and Red Corn are indignant but unsurprised when people and corporations continue to feel entitled to Osage lands, and, nearly a century since the start of the Reign of Terror, exhibit the same greed and corruption which characterized that time.
Grann is in Pawhuska to continue his research but is having more and more trouble finding relevant files. One day, at the public library, he notices a printed, spiral-bound manuscript entitled “The Murder of Mary DeNoya-Bellieu-Lewis.” Written in 1998, it was compiled by the great-great-grandniece of Mary, and tells the story of how Mary Lewis, an allotted member of the tribe, disappeared in her mid-fifties while on a 1918 trip to Texas with her adopted daughter and two white men—a close friend by the name of Middleton and one of his companions. After her disappearance, Middleton pretended to be Lewis’s adopted son in order to cash several of her checks. In 1919, Lewis’s body was found, and Middleton and his companion at last admitted to having conspired to murder her for her headright. Middleton was sentenced to life imprisonment but served just six years before being released.
As Grann discovers this account—written, printed, and bound by a descendant of the woman it happened to—he understands that the desire for the truth above all else is so potent that people will do anything to obtain it, even if it is just for themselves, and never makes a larger impact on the world.
Grann, finishing the manuscript, realizes that though the Reign of Terror—according to most historical accounts—spans from Anna Brown’s murder in 1921 to January of 1926, when Hale was arrested—Lewis’s murder in 1918 and Red Corn’s grandfather’s poisoning in 1931 show that the killings began much earlier and ended much later than most realize—and that many were never even given the dignity of an investigation.
Grann is disheartened but again unsurprised to realize that the corruption and coldness which characterized the Reign of Terror was also espoused by the very institutions tasked with stamping it out and solving it once and for all.