Spotlight: Killers of the Flower Moon and the Ford Film Collection

At first glance, Martin Scorsese, the Osage Nation, and Henry Ford have nothing in common. Scorsese is an award-winning American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. The Osage Nation is a thriving American Indian tribe whose ancestral land includes much of Oklahoma, and Ford is an industrialist who changed the manufacturing landscape. But despite assumptions, the three can be tied together through a film found in NARA’s Ford Motor Company Film Collection

The Ford collection was donated to NARA in 1963 by the Ford Motor Company. The collection includes approximately 5,000 titles covering the years between 1914 and 1945. A wide range of topics are featured in the Ford collection, including the development and impact of the automobile, other industrial processes, travelogues, and even Henry Ford’s home movies.

Also documented by the Ford Collection is the 1931 Ford Motor Company nationwide publicity tour featuring the twenty millionth Ford. Henry Ford and his record-breaking slant windshield sedan made stops all over the United States at Ford dealerships, State Capitals, and landmarks. People turned out by the thousands to see the car. At one of these publicity stops in Oklahoma, Henry Ford met with Osage Chief Henry Lookout and his wife, Julia Lookout. 

Still taken from FC-FC-1409

Chief Lookout served as Principal Chief of the Osage Nation during much of the period depicted in Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster movie Killers of the Flower Moon. The Scorsese film draws inspiration from the research of author David Grann. Grann’s book, Killers of the Flower Moon, recounts what is commonly called “The Reign of Terror,” a complex series of events involving the Osage Nation of Osage County, Oklahoma. After oil was discovered on their land, the Osage people were targeted and murdered. The murders attracted the attention of the newly-formed FBI and eventually led to an amendment to the 1906 Osage Allotment Act protecting Osage headright holders from actions by non-Osage. While Chief Lookout is not featured in the Scorsese film, he did play an essential role in the events and was an instrumental part of the effort to persuade Congress to amend the Osage Allotment Act. 

Footage of Ford and Chief Lookout can be found in NARA’s online catalog in Twenty Millionth Ford: Memphis and Oklahoma City Branches. The film shows Henry Ford, the twenty millionth Ford vehicle, and Chief Lookout. Chief Lookout can be seen presenting a peace pipe to Ford. The original catalog description provided by the Ford Motor Company describes the event, “Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the heart of the Osage Indian Reservation, Chief Lookout welcomes the Twenty Millionth and presents an Indian Peace Pipe for Mr. Ford. This peace pipe is the only remaining one in the nation originally used in Indian peace councils. Chief Lookout is an enthusiastic Lincoln car owner, as are several others in his family.”

Clip taken from FC-FC-1409

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