Miigwech, Jim. Giga-waabamin menawaa
June 20, 2016
by Ivan Raconteur

Just the sound of his name makes me smile.

I met Jim Northrup many years ago in Minneapolis. I attended a few readings he did while he was promoting one of his books.

His voice is like music, and since that first meeting, I have not been able to read any of his work without hearing it in that rich, warm, conspiratorial voice of his.

When he speaks, it is as if he is letting his audience in on a special secret.

Jim is many things to many people.

He is a veteran, having served in the Marines in Vietnam. He is a writer, columnist, and poet. He is an ambassador for the Anishinaabe culture.

Jim Northrup may mean something different to everyone who encounters him, because he makes personal connections through his writing and personal appearances.

He has seen a lot of pain in his life, but his sense of humor runs through his work. This is evidenced in this quote about his evolution as a writer from “Rez Road Follies” (University of Minnesota Press, 1997):

“I used to be known as a bullshitter, but that didn’t pay anything. I began calling myself a storyteller — a little better, more prestige — but it still didn’t pay anything. I became a freelance writer. At first it was more free than lance, then I started getting money for my words.”

His words have paved his path through life, and have helped him share his perspective with countless others.

His stories provided a window into the various chapters of his life from the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota to the jungles of Vietnam.

Now, suffering from advanced kidney cancer he thinks was caused by exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, Northrup is preparing for the next stage in his life.

It’s sad to think that his time in this world is coming to an end.

He’s the kind of guy one naturally enjoys being around. I can imagine sitting around a fire and listening to him for hours.

I have heard him read in bookstores and auditoriums, as well as in documentaries showing him at home in Minnesota. Wherever I have been, his musical voice had the power to transport me to another place.

His sharp prose and memorable characters, coupled with his natural narrative style, make for some easy listening.

Jim introduced us to characters such as Luke Warmwater and Ben Lookingback, who may have reminded us of people we have known.

He shared classic images like the rez car that is “louder than a 747,” and on which “none of the tires are brothers.”

We are fortunate, because when his time does come, Jim will leave behind a rich legacy.

For this, I can only say miigwech, Jim Northrup. Thank you for sharing your words with us.

The Anishinaabe don’t have a word for “goodbye” in their language. Instead, they say, “giga-waabamin menawaa,” or “I will see you again.”

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