Native-American Studies

The World’s Richest Indian: The Scandal over Jackson Barnett’s Oil Fortune by Tanis Thorne

The separation of simple thinking from greedy motives is what Tanis Thorne specifically gave focus on her writing about Jackson Barnett’s oil fortune in his property in Oklahoma during  the early 1900. Describing the man as a simple minded Indian American decent, Thorne tries to draw every line possible to make sure that her readers would come to understand that Barnett’s ownership is more than just proven through papers, but also proven through his traditional decent. Being an Indian American, Barnett has every right to own a land. Nevertheless, there was a time when he was considered landless. Because of the structure of the American law on property and land ownership during the early 1900s, Barnett was noted to be not owning any particular property.

During the time when Barnett was relatively ‘landless’, he was described by Thorne to be relatively ‘ordinary’. He was just another man living in the area, settling in his home and likely living a regular life like any regular American does. However, everything in this picture changed when he was finally awarded a land property by the government. It seemed that everyone began noticing him, and suddenly he was a somebody. In this course of the story, Thorne made it sure that her audience would get the proper idea of imposing the fact that the attitude of the people behind the realization of Barnett’s property was relatively affecting on how he turned out to be as a person. This situation was even impacted by the fact that his owned property turned out to be a rich location of oil reserve.

At this point, the conservative way of living of this ordinary Indian American became a fiasco that everyone wanted to know him. It was as if his story was a male depiction of a rags-to-riches Cinderella type of fairy tale. Pointing out how Barnett reacted to the matter, Thorne insisted that he was rather vulnerable to praises and specifically weak when it comes to accepting invitations from those who are in the authority to ‘direct him’. Investment hoaxes were readily available to offer him investment options, several business owners contacted him if in case he does want a piece of their business or if he wants to invest on their companies and such.          Thorne even pointed out on the existence of an adventuress [Anna Barnett] who took advantage of the found richness of Jackson. Thorne described her as a gold digger who actually knew what she was doing and yet was caught empty handed in the end when her marriage was annulled with Jackson Barnett before his death.

Even Creek Nation, the homeland of Barnett in Oklahoma, gradually became famous in the press and specifically became an interesting location for researchers and business enthusiasts in relation to developing the oil reserves that might still be available in the area. Seemingly, through her writing, Thorne tried to paint a picture that her readers would be easily able to relate to. Notably though, such condition of situations have been used to define the occurrences in Barnett’s life to create an image of a bigger depiction of the American society and how its modern community tries to appreciate or depreciate the richness of its original and traditional cultures in relation to the existence of the Indian Americans in the country.

In this writing, Thorne did also focus on the changing picture of the American law related to property ownership from the 1900s onwards. She insists that the changes in the rules and policies of ownership do not completely comply with the idea that there are certain exemptions that should be considered when it comes to dealing with the Native Americans. She notes that they should be well protected especially when it comes to deciding on their properties. Being vulnerable and likely trusting at some point, these individuals become preyed upon by the greedy ones in the society. Wanting everything for their own, these predators aim to get the best out of the good hearted ones.

When it comes to the writing style of Thorne, it could be considered rather monotonous. Although the details of the story she narrated in her book was considerably down to every point of important detail, it could be noted how she was blunt in addressing the interest of her readers. Perhaps because of the fact that she was relating an actual experience, a matter that her readers could probably has heard from the news already, she made the presentation rather simple and direct to the point. While this may be effective on some readers, there are those who are looking for an extra attention on keeping their interest into the reading through making the terms [especially the legal ones] easier to understand. Notably, it could be added to that her opinions on the matter and the relative connection she has drawn between the situation of Barnett and how it reflected the moral values of the society were all essential in adding value to the reading. The consistency of the said style of writing in the entire book renders it effective in making a directive point in calling out to her readers and presenting them with the facts that surround the American society at present. Considering the situation a presentation of the decay of morals in the society, Thorne insists that the change on such matters should be considered accordingly; a higher respect to the members of the Indian American ethnic groups should be imposed hence giving the ‘original’ value of being an American be preserved somehow. Greed and selfishness is what breaks a community; however, in this writing, it seemed like as if these two elements were the very matters that make up the American society as a whole. Understandably, through her shared opinions, this theme of the book has been further clarified in the entire reading hence sharing her ideas and messages to her target readers. She also made a great distinction on how the passing of the Indian Reorganization Act made a great change in the situations that Barnett and those like him experienced in relation to the regulations of ownership in America.


Thorne, T.  (2005). The World’s Richest Indian: The Scandal over Jackson Barnett’s Oil Fortune. Oxford University Press, USA.