(Bloomberg) -- This is the transcript for the fifth episode of Bloomberg and iHeart investigative podcast “In Trust.” Learn more and subscribe to “In Trust” on iHeart, Apple or Spotify. 

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Episode Five: The Association 

Rachel Adams-Heard I was starting to get a better idea of how the Drummond brothers made some of their money. They had the store, where they could charge a lot. They handled estates, approved their own claims. They were guardians, and could borrow Osage money from other guardians. They had so many different roles when it came to Osage finances.

I kept seeing this pattern. And, apparently, I wasn’t the only one. 

I mentioned that letter I found, from 1934, where the tribal attorney Louis Stivers said essentially the same thing. 

He called it an association. Men who were using their positions over Osage families to advance their own interests. He names names, too, in addition to the Drummond brothers. And these men he named either worked at the Drummond brothers’ store or the local bank where Jack Drummond worked and Fred Gentner sat on the board.

What Stivers seemed to say in this letter was that it wasn’t just a coincidence that all the same men kept coming up in the Osage guardianships and estates they handled — it was a whole strategy.

An association.

Elizabeth Lohah Homer That was a shocker, huh. That was a shocker of a letter. 

Rachel Adams-Heard I sent this to Elizabeth Lohah Homer — the lawyer in Washington D.C. who’s on the Osage Nation’s Supreme Court — because for everything I had heard about that time period, I hadn’t really seen any federal officials back then who seemed to catch that this was happening over and over again, among the same people in Hominy. 

Elizabeth Lohah Homer You don’t hear about that very often, where those bad behaviors actually get caught.

Rachel Adams-Heard The names Stivers mentioned have come up again and again in my reporting. There’s Fred L. Shedd, the guardian who lent out his wards’ money to the Drummond brothers. And Carl T. Matthews, who was the guardian of Rhoda Wheeler Ridge, the Osage woman who accused the Pope brothers of arranging a marriage with her to take her money. A man named Barlow. I recognized his name from Myron Bangs Jr.’s audit. Fred Gentner loaned him money from Myron’s account. Stivers lists a few others. He writes “et al” at the end, so I can only assume there were more. 

The archives have other letters and documents that offer a look inside how this all seemed to work. In one case, the Office of Indian Affairs sent a field agent to look into one of Fred L. Shedd’s guardianships. The superintendent had heard someone exerted “influence” over an Osage woman so she would sign a paper saying she wanted Shedd to remain her guardian. That agent reported back that Jack Drummond visited her and said if she told the Office of Indian Affairs that she wanted to keep Shedd as her guardian, he’d make sure she’d get more money each quarter and a new car.

From what I’ve read in the papers from this time period, these were prominent members of the White community in Hominy. This was a town of 3,000 or 4,000 people back then, with a young Rotary club that all but one of the men on this list were members of. The club came up in an article about a local game of donkeyball — a bunch of White businessmen riding donkeys, tossing the ball around. 

And Fred Gentner specifically seemed to have a lot of sway. He owned those shares in the store and the bank. He had been the head of his local Masonic temple in the early 1920s and led a committee to pave a road to Tulsa. Fred Gentner was also on the board of the company that published the Hominy newspaper. 

And while he was doing all that, according to Stivers, he was also using his connections with other White businessmen to access money from Osage guardianships and probates.

When I showed this letter to Gentner Drummond in his office he didn’t think it said these men were using Osage estates to enrich themselves, just that someone was objecting to having businessmen administer these estates.

There was one sentence in this letter from Louis Stivers that stood out to me. After he lists off examples where he’s seen the association play out, he writes, “All of these are sufficient to cause one to raise this question, to say nothing of Mr. Drummond’s conduct in the Wah-hu-sah-e estate in connection with certain disbursements due Josephine Lohah Kipp.” 

This was a new name to me, but Elizabeth, she actually knew Josephine well. 

Elizabeth Lohah Homer I always thought that Josephine was my grandma. But it turns out Josephine was not my grandma. Josephine was my grandpa’s first wife. 

Rachel Adams-Heard Elizabeth says she thought Josephine was her grandma, because she was at her house so much. They lived just outside of Hominy, in a big house. Hosted dinners, would have people over all the time. 

Elizabeth Lohah Homer She was like the, you know, kind of the center of the social scene for Osages in Hominy.  And so we were over there all the time, I mean it was like literally walking distance from our house.

Rachel Adams-Heard I wanted to know why Stivers singled out Josephine and her stepmother, a woman named Wah-hu-sah-e. What conduct he was talking about that warranted its own sentence in a letter that was already about a bunch of questionable stuff he seemed to think was going on.  

So I pulled Wah-hu-sah-e’s probate file. The one Stivers mentioned. She died in 1930. 

And what I saw in her probate was another letter from Stivers. He flags something — an almost $17,800 claim from the Hominy Trading Company. Debt the store said Wah-hu-sah-e’s estate owed. And that claim, it was approved by Wah-hu-sah-e’s executor: Fred Gentner Drummond. 

This is the strange part. According to Stivers, it wasn’t Wah-hu-sah-e’s debt at the store. It was money her husband’s estate owed, when he died seven years earlier in 1923. His name was Charles Wah-hre-she. 

At this point, I had seen some pretty enormous claims on Osage estates. But nearly $17,800? To a trading post? That’s more than a quarter million dollars today. And according to this letter, Fred Gentner was administrator of Wah-hre-she’s estate too.

I started looking around for any information I could find about Charles Wah-hre-she because he seemed like he might hold the key to figuring out what conduct Stivers was talking about in that letter — the example he seemed to find most questionable, that Fred Gentner Drummond was behind. 

And I learned that Charles Wah-hre-she was actually pretty famous at the time. He was a religious leader, influential in Hominy. I found a newspaper article calling him one of the most photographed Native Americans of the time. He took a trip to Mexico once, and made headlines across the country — I found mentions in newspapers from El Paso and Washington D.C. 

He was also a source for a well-known ethnologist named Francis La Flesche, who spent decades documenting Osage culture. His work comes up in a lot of books, and Wah-hre-she is mentioned by name. 

There was so much about him out there. But what stood out to me the most was a social media post, on Reddit of all places, from five years ago. 

The title said: “Osage Priest of Puma Clan Charles Wah-hre-she.” 

And the comment: “This is my great-great-grandfather. Born 1862. Murdered Dec. 10, 1923 during Osage Reign of Terror.”

This is “In Trust.” I’m Rachel Adams-Heard.

I didn’t set out to do a story about murder. Not that those stories don’t deserve to be told. There was just so much focus on the murders from the Reign of Terror — books, now a movie — and I wanted to understand the  financial schemes going on around them. The ones that don’t get as much attention, but still have these massive, generational impacts. 

But what I’ve learned from talking to Osage families is that it’s impossible to look at what happened during the 1920s and 1930s in Osage County without coming across murders that were never investigated or deaths that don’t make sense. 

There was Nah-me-tsa-he, who died while married to a man half her age, a man who sold her headrights just a few years later. Myron Bangs Jr.’s mother, who got sick just when a man who wanted her money married her. Suspicious circumstances definitely, but no one ever said they knew for sure what happened. 

But now I was looking at this Reddit post from someone who said definitively that their great-great-grandfather, Charles Wah-hre-she, was murdered. The same man whose debt at the Hominy Trading Company had come up in the Stivers letter. 

I sent a message to the account on the post — explained what I was working on, that I wanted to know more about Charles Wah-hre-she. 

For days, I refreshed the page over and over again, wondering if I’d hear back. 

While I waited, I went to someone else who might have heard about Charles Wah-hre-she. John Maker — who told me about the Osage price — his great-grandmother was Wah-hu-sah-e. 

And even though Wah-hre-she was her second husband, and not John’s direct ancestor, I thought maybe he would know how Wah-hre-she died. 

John Maker Well, I heard from that family — Angie Jake, who was his great-great-granddaughter — that he had been murdered on that road going out to their old place, called Cotton Gin Road. Of course, it was back in those days, it was a horse and buggy and the dirt road. And they had found him murdered, shot in his buggy, just leaned over. But it was a bullet wound to the head. And the horse was just standing there stopped and somebody was just coming or going and found him like that.Rachel Adams-Heard What was Angie like when she told you that? John Maker Well, I know she was hesitant to tell me. It’s like kind of an old skeleton closet story, you know. But she was real reverent about it when she was telling me, and I think we were just riding around in the car, yeah. I mean it was just kind of like, “By the way my old grandfather was murdered on this road.” And I was like, I had never heard that. Of course I had heard that name. Oh, Charlie Wah-hre-she was a well known name around Hominy, real respected religious leader.

Rachel Adams-Heard So John Maker had heard Charles Wah-hre-she was murdered during the Reign of Terror. And he had heard this story from a woman named Angie. John told me like a lot of deaths from the time this wasn’t something people talked a lot about. That people were scared the same thing could happen to them. 

The corruption of the time is well-documented now. But John said, for a long time, this was only ever something that was whispered about. 

John Maker And back in those days, it was common practice for these coroners or medical people: “Yup, he’s dead all right.” You know? No autopsy, none of that. I mean that corruption, what was the coroners, the medical examiner, the doctors, all the way to Oklahoma City on all these Osage deaths.

Rachel Adams-Heard I found out Angie had actually talked to someone else about it, an Osage woman she was distantly related to, who wrote her thesis paper on the Osage Native American church. In that paper, there’s a passage from a conversation with Angie where she says, “Wah-hre-she didn’t live very long. He was murdered.” 

But Angie says her parents never really sat her down and told her anything. Angie has since passed away, so I don’t know how she knew about Wah-hre-she’s death, or if she knew anymore than what she told John or this researcher.

At this point, I knew Louis Stivers suspected the Drummond brothers and other men around Hominy of being in an association. And that Stivers thought Fred Gentner Drummond took a bunch of money from Wah-hu-sah-e’s estate. Money Fred Gentner said the store was owed by her late husband, Wah-hre-she. And now I was learning that there was this whole other element, this belief by Wah-hre-she’s family that he was murdered. 

I was looking around for more information on Charles Wah-hre-she one day, when I went to check Reddit again. This time, I had a new message. From that account behind the post that said Wah-hre-she was murdered.

His name is John HorseChief. He’s an Osage citizen. An IT expert who works with a lot of old Osage records. We talked on the phone a few times. He said he was interested in seeing the documents I had found, so I sent him the letter from Louis Stivers, the reason I had come across his post to begin with. John invited me out to his family’s house in Hominy.    

Rachel Adams-Heard John?John HorseChief I’m John. Yeah. Rachel Adams-Heard Rachel — It’s nice to finally meet you in person.John HorseChief Glad you’re here. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John had two Crockpots on in the kitchen. There were jugs of tea on the table. His son had baked cookies.

John HorseChief Oh yeah, I was gonna tell you guys if you’re hungry. I made like traditional Indian corn with buffalo.Rachel Adams-Heard Oh, awesome. John HorseChief That’s real corn that we grow here. My uncle grows it and it’s been like tested. It’s got like 16% protein in this corn. Rachel Adams-Heard Oh, really? 

I sat down with John in the living room. His dad, Alfred, was also there. 

Alfred Horsechief Oh yeah, hi. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John said his sister Geneva and his cousin Mary Jo were going to come by later. The man they were going to tell me about, he was extraordinarily important — not just to their family, but to the Osage Nation’s history. He was a religious leader, at a time when Osage society was changing dramatically.

John HorseChief He had been educated but he chose to live an Osage life. He wore traditional clothing, he preferred to speak his language and, you know, he lived a traditional life as much as he could to that point. And so those are the things that we really value about the man of who he is and that’s really why I wanted my pops to be here, and my son, and all my family, is because we have this big large family and we, like, really take care of each other and our kids, but it’s all through this culture and it’s all through what our grandpa left us.

Rachel Adams-Heard Wah-hre-she died long before John or his dad were born. And even though Wah-hre-she was technically his great-great-grandfather John calls him grandpa. Says he’s always felt a strong connection to him.

When we sat down, John told me about a moment when he felt that connection — a moment that changed everything for him. 

At the time, John was working in the Osage Nation’s IT department. He says at first his job was mostly dealing with the typical IT stuff — messing with printers, network management, plugging in keyboards.

John HorseChief But one day there’s a big old box of dusty materials in the IT room. 

Rachel Adams-Heard A box of old audio recordings. Reel-to-reel tapes, waiting to be digitized. 

John HorseChief And they’re trying to pass it off to people. No one wanted to do it and I was a new guy in IT and so I needed to do something and then the first tape I digitized was one of our leaders named Bacon Rind. And he’s a very famous chief of ours and I heard his actual voice and from that moment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John started digitizing and converting more and more of these recordings, cataloging them. Some were tapes, others were from files from old wax cylinders at the Library of Congress. 

John HorseChief Yeah so when I started doing those that’s when I started, you know, really getting into it. And it was opened up a new world for me, you know? Because I didn’t think we had recordings that old. 

Rachel Adams-Heard  John says these tapes were organized by catalog number, so he’d have to compare the numbers with field notes from the time to figure out who was talking. And as he’s doing that, one day, he notices something.

John HorseChief They had our grandpa’s name written down a whole different way. So Wah-hre-she can get written down a bunch of different ways, right? And so it was with a C-H I think. And then I looked and I was like, “Is that grandpa?” Sure enough, I started listening to it. And it was and I was like, “Man, this is really him. This is it.”Rachel Adams-Heard  And, what was his voice like when you heard that?John HorseChief It was beautiful, it was haunting, and it was just like he’s talking to me.

Rachel Adams-Heard John told me a lot of the recordings with Wah-hre-she were religious songs — powerful, important. Wah-hre-she lived at a time when the Native American Church was first forming. John told me, he was trying to hold on to parts of traditional Osage beliefs and culture, and these songs were part of that.

John HorseChief When you hear that, and then you think about it, and you go home, when you pray and you think about “Man, why was I the one who got to hear my grandpa’s voice?” And so, you know, I don’t want to say it’s about me or something like that, but you know we believe everything happens for a reason, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. And so I took that as a sign, a good sign. And so that’s what I got into, and then the more I learned about it, I just totally went into it.

Rachel Adams-Heard Wah-hre-she was born in the 1860s. He lived on the Osage Reservation before the land was divided up and parceled out to individuals. Before headrights. 

Then allotment came and everything changed. 

Mary Jo Pratt I imagine that would have been like taking you and dropping you in the middle of another country, where you don’t speak the language. 

Rachel Adams-Heard This is Mary Jo, John’s cousin. She said Wah-hre-she would have watched the impact of allotment first-hand, and seen the US government’s efforts to force the Osage Nation to assimilate. 

Mary Jo Pratt And so taking someone out of something that would have been a community type environment, where we don’t look after the survival of ourselves, we look after survival of the community, and then separating, purposely doing the separating, there you see the evolution — forced evolution. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John and his family told me, when oil money started pouring in and more and more White people moved to Osage County, Wah-hre-she knew things were going to get bad. He watched as traders, and bankers, and ranchers all sought to get rich off the Osage Nation — its land, its oil money. 

This whole time, Osage children were being forced to attend Native American boarding schools, a lot of it paid for with Native money — money held in trust by the United States. These boarding schools punished children for speaking their own language and forced them to wear certain clothes. They were also rife with abuse.

John HorseChief Wah-hre-she was wanting to save this culture. He knew that we were getting wiped out here. It’s the table stacked against us — the lawyers, the policemen, they were all against us. They’re taking away our religion, our culture. So he was like, “Let’s go somewhere else and start over, where we can get the religion going, as much as we can make it work in the times that we live in.” So they thought about Mexico and they went down there. 

Rachel Adams-Heard Mexico. I’ve seen references to this trip all over the newspaper archives. In one, from December 1921, it says Wah-hre-she is “proposing to remove the Indians from the Wright-Pawhuska jurisdiction,” a reference to the Osage Agency superintendent at the time. 

There’s also another newspaper clipping, from June of 1922. It says Wah-hre-she hosted a feast at his house outside of Hominy. At this feast, he reportedly said he had already met with President Obregon of Mexico, and he was supportive of the plan to make Mexico the Osage Nation’s new home. The paper says Wah-hre-she: “Has the idea that this is too much of a White man’s country.” 

John HorseChief We went down there with a sack of dollars and when we got to Mexico he turned it into a bag of pesos and he paid for everything. He talked to everything, he managed everything. He was never scared. You know, he was on a mission to do something. He was trying to preserve our culture, our people, you know what I mean? So, that’s how bad it was here. That’s how deadly and bad it was here. They were getting murdered. I mean, they could see the writing on the wall.

Rachel Adams-Heard But the Mexico plan didn’t work out. After he visited, Wah-hre-she determined the land was no good for farming. And by the time he came back home to Hominy, just as he had predicted, disaster had struck Osage County — the Reign of Terror was well underway. Just a year later, Wah-hre-she too was dead.

[ambient sound of a car]Rachel Adams-Heard Wow.John HorseChief So this is it, we have a...

Rachel Adams-Heard During our conversation, John offered to take me out to Wah-hre-she’s land. It’s still in the family. Only a couple buildings are still standing. There was a fire out here, the family says an accident, back in the ‘70s.  

John HorseChief Here is where Charles Wah-hre-she lived. And it was a big giant brick house that he built and after it burned down some of the bricks are over at my little house I have over there, I use it to kind of make my little driveway, but this is where he had his big — this is where Charles Wah-hre-she’s big house was at, and they called this “the farm” out here.

Rachel Adams-Heard It’s just a few miles away from where John lives now. The foundation’s still there. A couple other buildings too. One called the summer house, kind of like a big guest house. 

John HorseChief Different people come visit for like two weeks at a time. And that’s where they would live in the summer house, or relatives come over, we’d have our dances, and so it was like for guests and for big occasions.

Rachel Adams-Heard This is the same house Elizabeth Lohah Homer mentioned. Where she had all those memories from growing up — of big dinners and social gatherings. Being there with John, I could imagine kids running around, adults visiting. 

John HorseChief And so this is our family’s specific church house right here. 

Rachel Adams-Heard Wah-hre-she’s church is also on the property. It has eight sides, a pointed roof. 

John HorseChief And so you’ll see these around. At one point, there was 45 or so these churches active in the county, each family had one. There’s about four of them active left, and this was active ‘til about 10-15 years ago. And so that’s what me, and Mary Jo, and Geneva are here, we’re trying to get built back, right? Because the tribe is having a renaissance, you know, of our culture and who we are. We’ve been through the worst, worst times, you know what I mean? And the ones who are left are coming back stronger, and we want to get back the stuff that we lost: our family, our church, our culture, our language.  This is like, for me personally, now that I’m becoming an elder, you know, talking to Mary Jo and Geneva, this is something I want to fix up and get back together and, in 100 years, our boys and our grandsons are going to sit in here, and they’re going to know what to do. And this is going to be their place again. So that’s what we want.

Rachel Adams-Heard I’ve heard that Charles Wah-hre-she was murdered from a few different people at this point. Unfortunately, everyone who would have had first-hand knowledge of this — the people who were there, back then — they’ve all died.

But the story’s out there, and the details are remarkably consistent: Charles Wah-hre-she was on his way home, in a buggy, on Cotton Gin Road, when someone shot him in the head. 

But the official story was completely different.

Even though Wah-hre-she was the subject of a bunch of articles while he was alive, I could only find a couple newspapers that mentioned his death. 

It’s the same article, republished. One on Dec. 12 by a newspaper in Pawhuska and the other, on the next day in the Osage Journal. The headline was “Charles Wah-hre-she Dead at Hominy.” His name is spelled differently. Fifty-seven words that say he died at Rolater Hospital in Oklahoma City. That his wife and daughter were there. The service is at 10 a.m. 

Rolater Hospital, all the way in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City is a two-hour drive from Hominy today, way longer in 1923. 

It’s the same location on his death certificate, which says he died on Dec. 10, 1923 from “Empyema of gallbladder with stones.” 

Basically, the doctor who filled out this death certificate was saying Wah-hre-she died of complications from gallbladder inflammation. Today, it’s pretty rare to die from that, but it can happen if left untreated. 

The undertaker was in Oklahoma City too. His name was Ed L. Hahn. And the funeral home he worked at, it still exists today. 

Cheryl Shick Hanh Cook Street and Draper, this is Cheryl how may I help you? Rachel Adams-Heard Hi Cheryl, my name’s Rachel…

Rachel Adams-Heard I told Cheryl I was looking for anything she could give me on Wah-hre-she. 

Cheryl Shick I would have to look and see if we actually have the record or not, that far back. I mean we do have some that far back but they’re a little sketchy sometimes, and I will need to go upstairs and look for that, so I will need to call you back. 

Rachel Adams-Heard Cheryl dug around in the records for a while. She called me back when she found something. 

Cheryl Shick I don’t have a lot of information. This is all handwritten so it’s kind of hard to read. It’s just a little card, is all it is. Back then that’s all we ever had.

Rachel Adams-Heard Cheryl told me some of the basic facts the funeral home had — his name, that he was married. That he was 68-years-old. 

Cheryl Shick There was an informant. I guess the gentleman that took care of him was Fred G. Drummond. And he died at Rolaters, or Rolaters Hospital. Rachel Adams-Heard So what would be the role of an informant? Cheryl Shick That would give us the information as to what — like mother and fathers names, date of birth, date of death, that sort of thing, things for the death certificate. Rachel Adams-Heard Is there any information about how he died? Cheryl Shick No, there’s nothing on here at all about how he died, just where he died and that’s it.  

Rachel Adams-Heard So Fred Gentner was the informant on this record at the funeral home. He was the one who called to give Wah-hre-she’s background information — his age, that he was married. Cheryl sent me a copy of the card and a separate itemized claim for Wah-hre-she’s undertaking services. 

It was $837.24. The most expensive part was the casket: $550. An account at the Hominy Trading Company paid for it. But there was no mention of how Wah-hre-she died. 

The funeral bill, the death certificate, the paper — they all put Charles Wah-hre-she in Oklahoma City when he died. Apparently from some sort of gallbladder inflammation. When I’d find something like this, I’d send it to John HorseChief. 

John HorseChief I’m just like, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s not what we heard. Rachel Adams-Heard So do you think, he was like, because — you said that you still believe that he was absolutely murdered?John HorseChief Yes, I believe that.

Rachel Adams-Heard John and I have talked a lot about this. Why the paperwork doesn’t match the story he’s heard — that a lot of people have heard — that Wah-hre-she was shot in the head. 

John told me, he hasn’t changed his mind. There are enough stories, and enough proof, that corruption was rampant back then.

I’ve tried to find out more about J.B. Rolater, the doctor the hospital was named after, who signed off on Wah-hre-she’s death certificate. There’s nothing I’ve seen that indicates he was ever suspected of being part of the Reign of Terror — of the criminal conspiracy that reached far beyond William Hale to lawyers, medical examiners, doctors.

There are some murders that have been solved from that time period, thanks to these archives and family stories. They come up in books like “Killers of the Flower Moon,” or “The Deaths of Sybil Bolton.” And I wish I could tell you this was one of those stories, and I figured out definitively whether Wah-hre-she was murdered, and if he was, who did it. 

But for every case that’s been solved, there are more like Wah-hre-she’s, where finding the answer seems almost impossible. The records say one thing, but knowing the corruption of the time, it’s hard to know whether you can trust them. The family story says something else, but it’s been a very long time, and no one who was there is still alive.

But there was still this whole other element to Wah-hre-she’s death that John still had questions about: the money. Why Wah-hre-she’s estate would have owed so much, and where it went? That’s after the break. 

John said, he was as sure as he ever was that Wah-hre-she was murdered. The official documents that placed him in Oklahoma City on Dec. 10 just didn’t seem right to him. Why would he have gone to a hospital so far away? If he wasn’t murdered, why had John heard this specific story — that Wah-hre-she was shot in the head on Cotton Gin Road — his entire life? 

John said, when he was reading all this paperwork — the death certificate, the card from the funeral home where Fred Gentner was the informant, the receipt paid for by an account at the Drummonds’ store — it was enough to make him want to know more: why Fred G. Drummond was all over Wah-hre-she’s and his wife Wah-hu-sah-e’s paperwork? He wanted to know how Fred Gentner ended up with so much of his family’s money. So John went to the courthouse and asked for the records on Wah-hre-she’s estate. 

John HorseChief Sure enough, I went up there yesterday to put those records and it’s a big manila envelope this thick. The very first name, Fred G. Drummond. Alright, oh, shit. So he became his executor after grandpa died, right? And in the very first day, Fred G. Drummond in there trying to correct the letter and get paid for this and get paid for that.

Rachel Adams-Heard When John went to the courthouse that day, I actually ran into him in the parking lot. He told me he put in an order to have Wah-hre-she’s entire probate copied and printed out so he could keep it. They told him it would take a couple days. He said I could come with him, when he picked it up. 

John HorseChief It’s a very intimidating courthouse in a way. Rachel Adams-Heard Yeah, how are you feeling? John HorseChief Well, it’s a different feeling. You know, like the first time we came up here I could really feel it, the first time we asked about it. These are the tomes. Rachel Adams-Heard Yeah, the old books with the gold and red spine. Yeah. I scanned every single one of that white one. John HorseChief Really?Clerk What can I do for you guys? John HorseChief Yes, ma’am. I'd like to pick up a probate I ordered on Friday. Clerk What's your name? John HorseChief John HorseChief.Clerk On Charles? John HorseChief Wah-hre-she, yeah. Clerk: Wah-hre-she. $125.

Rachel Adams-Heard John handed over his card. The woman behind the counter walked over to her computer, only to return a few seconds later. She told us the machine couldn’t take a card with a pin. John needed to come back with cash.

John HorseChief Okay, well then we’re gone have to get some money and come back.Clerk Okay.John HorseChief Okay.

Rachel Adams-Heard John let me ride with him to an ATM nearby. We drove past Ree Drummond’s Mercantile, past her hotel, the Pioneer Woman Boarding House. Downtown Pawhuska was busy that day, a lot of tourists around. 

John’s told me before he doesn’t have anything against Ree Drummond; she never did anything to him or his family. And I’ve heard a version of this before from some other Osage citizens — that Ree’s brought jobs to the community and helped revitalize Pawhuska. But John also said he feels conflicted about eating at her restaurants, knowing the broader suspicions around the Drummond family’s history in Osage County. 

John HorseChief It’s no secret what they did. They took advantage of us through hook and crook. And, you know, they can say that we signed the paper and it was all legal but I mean, they're sitting here holding all the money. I just want to know the truth. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John withdrew the cash and we drove back to the courthouse. He paid for Wah-hre-she’s probate. Left with a few hundred pages, double sided. We made a plan to meet up later, after he had a chance to read through it. 

Later that week one night, after John had gotten off work, I went back to his house. He had all the papers from the probate file on his kitchen table, with a magnifying glass. 

Rachel Adams-Heard Yeah, so what do you make of like, these dates?John HorseChief Oh, there’s even more. So like there's this one and then there’s the $1,000 charge from the hospital, from the Rolaters Hospital to my grandpa’s bill, that’s further down here I think...

Rachel Adams-Heard In addition to the Rolaters Hospital charge there’s also a claim from the Hominy Trading Company. In the first week of December it shows Wah-hre-she bought some coffee and eggs. A couple boxes of Jell-O. 

And on Dec. 8, two days before he died, there’s another claim from the Drummond’s store: $200 cash – for “expense to Oklahoma City.” Fred Gentner approved that and all the other claims.

John HorseChief It’s even worse when you see all this guy’s name all over it. Right? He’s the one getting all the money out of it and directly benefiting from it. This dude’s name is all over my grandpa’s paperwork. Right? 

Rachel Adams-Heard Even seeing the probate, it still wasn’t clear how Wah-hre-she’s estate would have owed so much money to the Hominy Trading Company — about $17,800 by the time the store collected on it.

Rachel Adams-Heard Yeah, it’s so interesting, like, so we have the we have the congressional record, and we have that funeral card from the Oklahoma City funeral home with expenses that went into the funeral. But then, I’m not even like really seeing where those would be.John HorseChief Maybe those are — yeah, they’re not even in here are they? Maybe those are paid out of his own pocket. I don’t know. But I don’t even know what goes on. It’s just so confusing.

Rachel Adams-Heard It was confusing. You have to make a lot of assumptions to get the numbers to add up, because there aren’t many receipts showing how the debt could have piled up so much.  But I have been able to put together a rough idea of how that happened.

The congressional record I mentioned to John, it was the same hearing where one lawmaker called the extreme funeral bills fees than Teapot Dome. 

They cite an example, an Osage citizen whose funeral expenses were around $9,000. They call the person Wahrisha and later Waresi. But it’s clear from the other details they mention they’re just mis-saying Wah-hre-she. Because they’re talking about an Osage man who lived in Hominy, whose undertaker was in Oklahoma City — whose administrator was Fred Gentner Drummond. 

I’ve looked at all the other estates Fred Gentner handled, Wah-hre-she is the only one that makes sense here.

According to this hearing, the monument for Wah-hre-she’s grave cost $4,800 and the casket was $3,000. The funeral came out to more than $9,000. 

A couple years later, as the administrator of Wah-hre-she’s estate, Fred Gentner Drummond issued the Hominy Trading Company a promissory note, basically an IOU. It said Wah-hre-she’s estate owed the store a little over $11,000. 

And because Fred Gentner gave his store a promissory note from the estate it was collecting interest every year. Until one day, when Wah-hu-sah-e dies, and the store makes the claim, with interest, on her estate for roughly $17,800. More than $300,000 today.

So that’s where the $17,800 claim on Wah-hu-sah-e’s estate must have come from: Wah-hre-she’s funeral. The one that came up in a congressional hearing, that one lawmaker called worse than Teapot Dome. 

This is what Louis Stivers, the tribal attorney, was complaining about in that letter I found. The one that sent me looking for Charles Wah-hre-she’s family. That led me to John HorseChief. Stivers was objecting to how much that debt increased. And how the guy who issued the promissory note from Wah-hre-she’s estate was also the guy collecting on it: Fred Gentner. An IOU, to himself effectively, from the estate of an Osage man who couldn’t dispute it. 

But despite all the flags — from Stivers, from U.S. congressmen — Fred Gentner never had to pay the money back. A county judge overruled Stivers’ objections and said the Hominy Trading Company could keep the roughly $17,800. He also said Fred Gentner could keep the executor’s fee he paid himself, another $3,294.80. And Fred Gentner’s lawyer, a man named G.K. Sutherland, made $1,500 from Wah-hu-sah-e’s estate.

John HorseChief It’s like an open check. You can just start writing money against this guy. When you think about it, that this used to be yours and you actually see the paperwork and you know, I think you look at things a lot differently. You know what I mean? You look at people a lot differently. You think about yourself differently. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John told me he was going to keep looking through Wah-hre-she’s records — reading the probate — piecing together just what happened to his family in the ‘20s and ‘30s.  

John HorseChief You know, one of these days, we’re going to make sense of all this paperwork and, and it’ll be some more closure, but you know, I’m just barely kind of like putting together all that happened and the repercussions of what it did to us personally, you know what I mean? On a personal level, not just financially, right? But the bigger loss is just that he meant more to us, the person, right? But you know it’s bringing us together as a family and it’s just like, you know, just something we can kind of — I guess now we’re ready to talk about it. ‘Cause I have a feeling, they didn’t talk about it for a long time. You know what I mean? It was just so painful and just such a loss and, so. It was very, very hard on our family — and I think a lot of it, you know, it’s just so much stuff goes through my head, right. ‘Cause my grandpa was resistant to all this stuff like: let’s keep our culture. Let’s keep our language. Let’s keep what makes us, us. And then he was actively trying to move the tribe to where we could practice our culture and stuff. And it’s just, definitely it makes you think that this culture is that strong. It can withstand all this, all these millions of dollars, all that. And if we just lean into that, you know, we'll be all right. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John and I went through more of the probate. We talked for a while. It was getting dark outside. 30-something degrees. A winter storm was rolling in. 

He told me about other things he was up to — projects he was working on with people around town. 

He showed me some beadwork he was doing for his son, a leather hat he made. John told me, before I left, there was something he wanted to show me. He had just gotten back from Nebraska, from a buffalo hunt. 

John HorseChief You know, I had a gun and I was about 70 yards away and I was in a 4x4 you know, I just kind of got out of the 4x4 and waited — I couldn’t shoot nothing else cause if you shoot another one you have to pay for that one too — so I got it, I got it, I got it. So I waited – you have to wait until there’s nothing behind him and nothing in front of him and then I did and I prayed and I was very thankful. And so, it was a good feeling, good experience, a blessing. So I’m very happy for that. And you know, that’s the kind of good things I want to spread around. 

Rachel Adams-Heard John pulled up a video on his phone. He had a brush in his hand, combing it through the hide.

John HorseChief But yeah, that’s a Buffalo robe. I’m making a Buffalo robe. I’m the first Osage to kill a buffalo in over a hundred years. That’s what I’m saying until someone pops up with a picture. But this is what I’m trying to take back. I’m trying to say “Hey, we need to start eating buffalo, growing our own corn, learn how to do this again.”Rachel Adams-Heard Does it make you feel close to Wah-hre-she?John HorseChief It does. Yeah. It makes me feel like his blessings are coming to me and he’s helping me out. Just got to follow this way.

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