Sub­texts A farewell to au­thor Jim Northrup

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The Ojibwe writer and poet Jim Northrup died on Aug. 1, 2016, in Sawyer, Min­nesota, from ad­vanced kid­ney can­cer. Northrup was born on April 28, 1943, on the Fond du Lac Chippewa reser­va­tion in Min­nesota. He was sent to a fed­eral In­dian board­ing school at age six, but he kept in touch with his fam­ily and re­sisted as­sim­i­la­tion in a va­ri­ety of cre­ative ways — which landed him in re­form school for a time as a teenager. He grad­u­ated from a pub­lic high school in Car­leton, Min­nesota, in 1961, and then en­listed in the U.S. Marines, go­ing on to fight in Viet­nam. Af­ter the war he worked in con­struc­tion; his writ­ing came out of sto­ry­telling with fam­ily and friends. A 20th an­niver­sary edition of Walk­ing the Rez Road, orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1993, was is­sued in 2013 by Ful­crum Pub­lish­ing. In many of the short sto­ries in that book, Northrup’s re­cur­ring main char­ac­ter and al­ter-ego, Luke Warmwa­ter, ap­pears as a man who comes home from the war to a reser­va­tion strug­gling with poverty and a cor­rupt tribal gov­ern­ment. The Rez Road Fol­lies: Ca­noes, Casi­nos, Com­put­ers, and Birch Bark Bas­kets (1997) is a collection of hu­mor­ous es­says about mod­ern Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture, as is Rez Sa­lute: The Real Healer Dealer (Ful­crum Pub­lish­ing, 2012).

Northrup, who wrote in English and Ojibwe, learned to speak his Na­tive lan­guage as an adult. He of­ten wrote about post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der from the Viet­nam War — a condition from which Luke Warmwa­ter also suf­fered — and wanted his work to bring ca­ma­raderie and heal­ing to oth­ers who had gone through sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences. His col­umn, Fond du Lac Fol­lies, was syn­di­cated in sev­eral Na­tive news­pa­pers and web­sites, in­clud­ing In­dian Coun­try To­day and The Cir­cle, and ran from 1989 through 2014. Northrup is sur­vived by his wife, Pa­tri­cia; six sons, two daugh­ters, four sis­ters, three brothers, 16 grand­chil­dren, and seven great­grand­chil­dren. — Jen­nifer Levin

Jim Northrup

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