Film

What Scorsese epic Killers of the Flower Moon means to an Indigenous street paper vendor

With Martin Scorcese's new epic, Killers of the Flower Moon taking place in Oklahoma, we hear a local Indigenous street paper vendor's take on the movie

A woman in a green top holding a pot plant against a yellow background

Amethyst, Curbside Chronicle vendor

The events of Martin Scorcese’s new film Killers of the Flower Moon take place in Oklahoma. “Our state was very much built on loss,” says Nathan Poppe, who is editor of Curbside Chronicle, a street paper based in Oklahoma City.  

“It’s not uniquely Oklahoman to forget our history, but this state’s history is full of events that a lot of people would rather choose to forget as opposed to learn from.” 

There was the Land Run of 1889 that ripped away the territories promised to Indigenous people after the forced displacement of approximately 60,000 individuals in what’s known as the Trail of Tears. Then there are the events depicted in Killers of the Flower Moon, based on a book by David Grann. 

“Like a lot of people, I was totally ignorant to the history inside Grann’s book even though the Osage reservation is just a couple of hours away from Oklahoma City,” Poppe says. “It’s very easy to grow up here and not get a sense of what really happened to people, even though it’s in our backyard. I hope that people walk away from the new film with a renewed interest in our history and resilience of a people who should never be forgotten.” 

The treatment of Indigenous tribes has a lasting impact through to today, and Curbside Chronicle supports several Native vendors, who either sell the magazine or work in Curbside Flowers, a flower shop that offers training and employment to people transitioning out of homelessness, succeeding in its aim to bring beauty to the community. 

Amethyst, 38, has sold the magazine since 2020 and worked at Curbside Flowers for over a year. She spoke to Poppe about her life and feelings about Killers of the Flower Moon – a film she actually auditioned to be in. 

Nathan Poppe: You auditioned to be in Killers of the Flower Moon. Can you tell me what that day was like? 

Amethyst: It was so fun. Oh, my gosh, there were so many Indians from all over the state. It was a blast. Because when natives get together, we don’t even have to know each other, we just start chopping it up. We were giggling and having a good time. It was to be extras. The line was really long. Basically, they asked our names and took some pictures. 

What made you want to try? 

I thought it’d be a cool way to get money. You know, sounds like a big deal and I would have liked to be a part of it. 

Remind me, what tribe are you affiliated with? 

I’m Muscogee Creek and I’m Lakota Sioux. My mom is full-blooded Creek and my dad was half Lakota and half Musko. 

Were you already familiar with the history of what happened to the Osage? 

A little bit. My mother is an elder so she always talks about stuff. The Osages got all that oil money then a bunch of really bad things happened whenever they first started getting assimilated. Americans took advantage and killed them for their money. I think [my mom] wanted me to be enlightened about that type of stuff. Now that I’m older, we have deep conversations. We come together and talk about like: oh, I saw this or I read this, or I heard this, then we can bring our own experience to the discussion. So I did know a little.  

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How does it feel when you know Killers of the Flower Moon will put a spotlight on native history? 

This is really cool. It feels good to have our history acknowledged. It’s very interesting to be to be Indigenous here. Truly we’re living in two worlds, two cultures. So it’s really cool that somebody like Martin Scorsese wanted to do a movie. I’m really glad it’s being highlighted because that’s stuff in American history that people don’t get to learn in public schools. Knowing the truth about some of the deep, severe traumas and struggles that certain people have gone through is important because that affects us to this day. 

Where in Oklahoma did you grow up? 

I grew up in Tulsa. The east side. And when I was homeless there, it was more along the Arkansas River. I kind of feel like both places are my home. 

When did you first experience homelessness? 

Let me see. I believe it was 2014. I was born in 1985 so I would have been 28 or 29. I have been battling addiction and mental illness since I was a teenager. Along with that comes bad relationships I’ve been involved in. I was in an unhealthy relationship and that person was in prison. And it was just like the last straw. I’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. When people have that, they have a really difficult time with breaking up, with separation and abandonment issues, and that’s hard for people to handle if they don’t have enough coping skills. So anyway, that relationship broke up and I just self-medicated. The only place I could drink the way I needed to drink at that point was out on the street. So off to the street I went. And I stayed there for way too long. 

When did you first get connected with Curbside? 

I got connected with Curbside around 2020. 

And how are you doing today? 

Things are going great. Honestly, just to be realistic, I really don’t think I could ask for much more right now. I’ve got everything I need. I got those two cats. I’m in my children’s lives. My job is amazing. 

Are you planning to see the movie yourself?  

Yeah, for sure.  

Even though you’re bummed out that you’re not in it?  

For sure! It’s gonna be really good! 

Killers of the Flower Moon is in cinemas now.

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