- Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez by Jim Northrup
by Jim Northrup
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011
This book comprises selections from the newspaper column written by Jim Northrup between 1989 and 2001. The column, “Fond du Lac Follies,” appears monthly in a number of Native-controlled newspapers in the Upper Midwest. I am an ideal candidate to review this work, as I am the only known person to have photocopies or originals of all installments of Northrup’s column, including a separate column he wrote for the Duluth News Tribune between 1993 and 1995, “Indian Issues.” Not even Northrup has copies of all his columns. I know, because he personally showed me his collection, which was rather scant and incomplete. I have also scanned all of Northrup’s columns to convert them into electronic form, and have used these columns in several of my scholarly articles. As a result, I have read all of Northrup’s columns many times over and am intimately familiar with his writing.
“Fond du Lac Follies” has appeared in print since August 1989, and over the years has become one of the most read and influential newspaper columns written by a Native American. It is now syndicated and appears in the newspapers The Circle, News from Indian Country, Ojibwe News, and Ojibwe Akiing. Northrup’s earnest, honest, and open writing has garnered several awards for the column. In 1999, the Native American Journalists Association named “Fond du Lac Follies” the best column of the year, and in 2001 the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers [End Page 102] and Storytellers recognized Northrup as writer of the year for his work in the “Fond du Lac Follies.”
This collection of his columns can be read on many levels. Most simply, the book is a recounting of Northrup’s life and thoughts. However, because of his life history, many topics come to the fore. In reading the book, a sense of the rhythm of Anishinaabe family life becomes evident. Of particular importance, of course, is Northrup’s family. For example, it is interesting to follow how Northrup’s son, Aaron Ezigaa, grows over the years. Along with his family life is the seasonal cycle of the Anishinaabeg. Northrup reports regularly about tapping sugar maple trees, making birch bark baskets, harvesting wild rice, and snaring rabbits. The column also provides a history of the Anishinaabeg in the late twentieth century, from the treaty rights struggles in the early 1990s to the rise of gambling operations in the mid to late 1990s. The book is connected to the larger society, too, in that Northrup is not shy about expressing his opinions on issues of the day. His veteran’s status provided him with an opportunity to speak with authority about the Gulf War. His continuing comments on life as a veteran, especially traveling to veterans’ events, are always particularly touching. Anishinaabe Syndicated, then, reflects the rich tapestry of Northrup’s life.
With this volume, Northrup joins other Native American columnists who have had their work published in book form. In the early part of the twentieth century, Alexander Posey, a Muskogee Indian from Oklahoma, wrote newspaper commentaries under the pseudonym Fus Fixico. His newspaper publications have been gathered in The Fus Fixico Letters, edited by Daniel F. Littlefield Jr. and Carol A. Petty (University of Nebraska Press, 1993). The Northern Shoshone Indian Willie Ottogary has had his columns published in The Washakie Letters of Willie Ottogary: Northwestern Shoshone Journalist and Leader, 1906–1929, edited by Matthew Kreitzer (Utah State University Press, 2000). Another Indian columnist is Charles Round Low Cloud, whose works can be found in Charles Round Low Cloud: Voice of the Winnebago, by William L. Clark and Walker D. Wyman (University of Wisconsin–River Falls Press, 1973). Readers who are interested in the history of Native American newspaper columnists will want to check out these books as well.
Unfortunately, Northrup’s book suffers from two critical flaws in that there is no index and the columns are not annotated. At 226 pages, the book should have an index. In fact, it should have two...