Unlike many viewers, I cannot sit through movies with graphic scenes of gore and torture. I prefer the horrors of a massacre to be evoked by a creaking, empty swing, as in Sholay, than by gallons of tomato sauce spewed around a room. Naturally, I restrict my exposure to directors, who revel in violence, like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese.

There was no need, however, to brace myself to watch Scorcese's latest offering, the three-and-a-half-hour long Killers of the Flower Moon, which has just arrived at Indian theatres. For all its length, the film is neither tedious nor needlessly violent. It is a straightforward narrative, leading inexorably to a riveting conclusion.

Made for release on the Apple streaming channel, Killers of the Flower Moon moves at a leisurely pace. The ballooning sequence of terrifying episodes is essential to bring home the horror of the elimination of an entire tribe by the white community around them to the audience as well as to the victims themselves. The movie version would have lost this effect, if it had been further edited.

At the moral heart of the story is Mollie (played heartbreakingly by Lily Gladstone). She is its luminous core, gathering together the intelligence, wisdom and compassion of the Osage tribe. The light radiates to members of her family and the elders of the clan, who are eager to preserve its practices, beliefs and moral principles.

At the dark periphery of the circle lie predatory white families and companies, moving in to destroy the Osages, the cruellest of whom is the deputy warden of the reserve, "King" Hale, (an impeccable performance by veteran Robert de Niro), who quotes scripture even as he loots and kills the Indians.

The Osages have been resettled on the arid plains of Oklahoma, following an agreement with the federal government. The intervention of Fate makes them the richest people of the world, when oil companies locate huge reserves of fossil fuel on the new homeland. Clan heads negotiate mining contracts by which they retain community ownership of the natural resource, while sharing "head rights" to royalties among tribal families.

The film tells the true story of the shameless machinations of whites of all hues to exploit the Osages, enrich themselves at their expense and capture their rights by fair means or foul. It's a shocking and disgusting spectacle, which becomes credible as layer after layer is exposed through a series of episodes.

As the movie proceeds, we wake up gradually to what is happening. Our awakening is reflected in Mollie's growing apprehension about the unresolved deaths in the clan, which are laid at the doors of oil company labourers and other looters, who have entered the area in the wake of investments brought in by oil contractors. But, the menace is much closer than she imagines.

Early on in the movie, we become privy to the thinking of King Hale who is accepted as friend and protector by the Osages, when we watch him briefing his nephew Ernest Burkhart, (a stellar performance from Leonardo DiCaprio), newly returned from service as an army cook in the first World War.

Ernest is gradually inducted into Hale's project to annex the head rights of a prosperous Osage family by marrying one of its eligible women to whom Ernest is attracted. Even as Mollie and Ernest start a family, claimant after claimant to their fortune drops dead, with some being gunned down in the lawless town, while Deputy Marshal Hale looks on making sympathetic noises.

A nightmare scenario clamps down on the family and the tribe, as well as on those to whom they turn for advice and help (like the private detective that Mollie calls in). Her awareness of the complicity of the white groups around her in exploiting the Osages takes Mollie to Washington, where the newly created FBI is brought in to investigate. The rest of the story focuses on the results of this enquiry and its devastating effects on Mollie and Ernest.

But the movie is more than a gripping thriller about the murder and betrayal of one family. It is also a bitter commentary on the brazen exploitation of an innocent minority group by legal and illegal business and government measures.

The advent of white invaders was harmful to native American tribes in several ways. They became vulnerable to new illnesses to which they had no immunity. Members of Mollie's family fall prey to acute diabetes, which ruins their lives and leads to early deaths. And, beyond these ravages of nature, there is always the lurking menace of white men waiting to pounce.

Native Americans are confined to reserves, which they cannot leave without formal permission. Mollie must get approval, even for a trip to Washington to seek protection from President Calvin Coolidge. The Osages are imprisoned in a world of ruthless exploitation. When they become wealthy, traders flock to the reserve to sell them goods and services at exorbitantly high "Osage prices". Their graves are plundered for buried ornaments.

Adulterated whiskey is freely available to tempt and kill off men and women, young and old. Even medical treatment is offered without compassion or care, driven only by the profit motive. The complicity of doctors in committing and concealing crimes against the Osages is one chilling part of Scorcese's narrative.

Just as ghastly is the way businesses controlled by white capitalists close their ranks to stop the FBI from prosecuting King Hale. Institutions that claim to be based on notions of justice and Christian charity are precisely those that lean on Ernest Burkhart to hide the larger conspiracies behind his crimes.

The credibility of the plot rests on the criminalisation of Ernest. A drifter with weak moral principles, who is attracted to Mollie and fond of his family, Ernest is inveigled into collaborating with Hale and becoming his catspaw to usurp the wealth of the Osages to enrich his white relatives. He cannot stand up to the prevailing white belief that Indians are not normal human beings and can therefore be betrayed and even murdered.

By adapting how a satirist recently compared Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza conflict, we may well ask: What is the current exchange rate between the life of a native American and that of a white person?

Killings of entire communities like the Osages are possible only when the claims of common humanity are denied to minority groups. The message of Scorcese's movie resonates far beyond one tribe in the United States to communities caught in similar situations around the globe.

Isn’t this exactly how we treat Adivasis living in resource-rich areas in India, who are trying to preserve their lands and culture?