Cover image for The world's richest Indian : the scandal over Jackson Barnett's oil fortune
The world's richest Indian : the scandal over Jackson Barnett's oil fortune
Thorne, Tanis C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xvi, 292 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E99.C9 B377 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The first biography of Jackson Barnett, who gained unexpected wealth from oil found on his property. This book explores how control of his fortune was violently contested by his guardian, the state of Oklahoma, the Baptist Church, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and an adventuress who kidnappedand married him. Coming into national prominence as a case of Bureau of Indian Affairs mismanagement of Indian property, the litigation over Barnett's wealth lasted two decades and stimulated Congress to make long-overdue reforms in its policies towards Indians. Highlighting the paradoxical roleplayed by the federal government as both purported protector and pilferer of Indian money, and replete with many of the major agents in twentieth-century Native American history, this remarkable story is not only captivating in its own right but highly symbolic of America's diseased and corruptnational Indian policy.

Author Notes

Tanis C. Thorne teaches Native American studies at the University of California, Irvine.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Thorne (Univ. of California, Irvine; Sacramento State Univ.) tells the story of Jackson Barnett, a Creek Indian whose 160-acre farm happened to be located over one of the richest pools of oil in Oklahoma. Though the royalties from the oil made him a millionaire by 1920, Barnett was an unassuming individual who lived modestly. And though he was uninterested in his wealth, others in this sordid tale of greed and corruption were extremely interested. These parties included Baptists, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Justice, the State of Oklahoma, the Department of the Interior, approximately 800 individuals claiming to be heirs, and a 39-year-old gold-digging wife who eloped with Barnett when he was 63 years old. Control of his fortune was contested on a number of stages, including the floor of the U.S. Congress, courtrooms all over the country (including the U.S. Supreme Court), and a mansion on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. At face value, this lurid tale will appeal to those who are currently infatuated with reality television. But more important, it vividly illuminates how the federal government of that period was "protecting" native peoples while at the same time stealing whatever they had of value. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Jackson Barnett, a Creek Indian, became the foil in the struggle for control of Indians and their assets between the cupidity of Oklahoma's infamous guardianship despoliation of Indians and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' paternalistic micromanaging meanness designed to help its wards. Barnett's allotment produced oil royalties of $50,000 monthly by 1917. All agreed that he could not be allowed to manage such a windfall, so the struggle began. Before the scandal ended, Barnett had two guardians, a gold digger wife, Baptists who got money to support good works, and national attention. Thorne (Univ. of California, Irvine, and Sacramento State Univ.) makes credible a story too scandalous to believe. Jackson Barnett emerges as a warm man bemused by the turmoil that his wealth created. As a symbol of the "diseased" federal policy, his saga contributed to the end of allotment and sustained those who would reform it to actually protect Indians. This is an important book in US history. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels and libraries. G. Gagnon University of North Dakota

Table of Contents

Chronologyp. XIII
Introductionp. 3
1 Please Pass the Injin Territoryp. 16
2 The Making of the Incompetent Indianp. 36
3 Tar Baby, 1912-1920p. 49
4 Anna, Adventuress of a Most Dangerous Type, 1920-1923p. 70
5 Dividing the Estate, 1921-1923p. 86
6 "Poor Rich Indians" and the Turning Political Tide, 1923-1925p. 103
7 Battle Royal: Litigation over the Jackson Barnett Estate, 1925-1928p. 121
8 Who Will Guard the Guardians? Indian Policy on Trial, 1924-1928p. 146
9 Witch Hunts: The Senate Subcommittee Investigation, 1928-1929p. 159
10 The Gilded Cage, 1926-1938p. 175
11 The Battle of Wilshire Boulevardp. 190
12 Speculative and Protracted Litigationp. 204
Epilogue: A Matter of Trustp. 215
Appendicesp. 227
Notesp. 233
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 281