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Osage Indian Headrights

June 6th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

I’ve been asked many times over the years about my tribe’s headrights so I thought I would do a couple of posts explaining more about them.  I say couple because I doubt I would have the time to explain it all at once! LOL  There’s a lot of details and some absolutely fascinating information.  In fact, I just borrowed some wonderful books from my mother and will post more as I read through them.

So, are you ready for a headright lesson?  Here we go.   First, some interesting links.

  • A cursory explanation can be found on the Osage site here.  There are 1.47 million acres in the Reservation!
  • My mother’s cousin (maybe second?) was Clarence Tinker, the first General to die in WWII and Tinker Air Force Base is named after him.
  • Wiki has some good general tribal information.
  • Fantastic article explaining the discovery of oil on indian land & other information.
  • Murders began because of the headrights.

I’ll post more as I go.

When the government created the Reservation they (the Tribe) counted themselves at just over 2,000 and they issued parcels of land at 658 acres to each one of the “original allottees”.  My great grandmother was Nora D Stingley and she’s number 1972.  The Tribe then created the Mineral Trust and determined that the Tribe had rights to any mineral royalties from the reservation and that those royalties would be divided equally among the original allottees.  Oil was discovered soon after and everything changed.

The quarterly payments for each headright began in late 1800’s and, once oil was discovered, were outrageous – this site shows the history of payments with inflation, the years are listed by rank in amount and not cronologically.  IN THE 20’s these indians were EACH receiving nearly $150,000 (by today’s standards) a QUARTER and when you figure that some of these allottees were also receiving their parent’s share when they passed …… well there were young indians receiving $450,000 (by today’s standards) or so each quarter.  At one point it’s reported that the Osage Indians were the richest people in the world – and the white men began noticing.

In the beginning it was setup so that when an allottee passed away their headrights were passed to their children if they were from an indian mother but not to the children if the indian was the father.  Then they started getting into percentages and things sort of went south.  Finally it was decided that the allottee could leave their headright with whomever they wanted.

That’s when the murders started.  Or should I say, suicides by putting a bullet through one’s head.  Through the back of one’s head.


In fact, a Mr. Hale decided that he would just get a whole racket going and actually put out contracts on his wife’s family when he got those allottments all lined out in their wills.  There was an attorney in town who “assisted” white men in finding young indian girls to marry and then strangely those girls would be mysteriously shot or found dead in another manner.  One indian committed suicide by burning a car – normally not a common method of suicide.

At any rate, taxes were avoided by one way and one way only for anyone receiving an allotment check, original or inherited, you had to be declared indigent.  If you weren’t indigent then you had to pay taxes.  My own grandmother declared herself indigent when she inherited her share of Nora’s headright.

That’s all I have time for now but I promise to post more.



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