Published on November 21, 2012 by Amy
Jim Northrup (born 1943) is an Anishinaabe (Native American) newspaper columnist, poet, performer and political commentator from the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation in Minnesota. His Anishinaabe name is “Chibenashi” (from Chi-bineshiinh “Big little-bird”).
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Northrup’s regular column, the Fond du Lac Follies, is syndicated through several Native American papers, such as The Circle, The Native American Press and News From Indian Country. It has won many awards (see below) and is known for a warm humour with a sharply political undertone. Northrup often tells stories through the perspective of his immediate family, most of whom like himself live a traditional Anishinaabe lifestyle, and uses a folksy style to make points about United States-Native American interactions. Fond du Lac Follies was named Best Column at the 1999 Native American Journalists Association convention. In 1990-1992, Jim worked as a roster artist for the COMPAS Writer in the Schools Program. He has been a Mentor in the Loft Inroads Program, a Judge for the Lake Superior Contemporary Writers Series and The Jerome Fellowship, and a Member of the Minnesota State Arts Board Prose Panel. Jim also has given radio commentaries on the Superior Radio Network, National Public Radio, Fresh Air Radio, and the BBC-Scotland. His two books, Walking the Rez Road and Rez Road Follies, are written in the same style, and have been highly praised for their insights into reservation life. He peppers his column, and the books, with jokes (e.g. Q: Why is the white man in such a hurry to get to Mars? A: He thinks we have land there) and words or phrases from his tribal language, Ojibwemowin, of which he is a student.
Born in the Government Hospital on the reservation, Northrup was brought up on Pipestone Indian School, where he was physically abused by teachers and fellow students, Northrup grew up a tough streetfighter with a smart mouth. Service in Vietnam and a surfeit of family tragedy have added to a strong, humorous voice that is unafraid to talk about the darker side of life.
Jim and his family live the traditional life of the Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota, on the Fond Du Lac reservation. Year around they practice the construction of making winnowing backets, and harvest wild rice and maple syrup. Nonetheless, his traditional lifestyle does not deter him from participating in events like the Taos Film Festival and the Taos Poetry Circus.