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Fond du Lac Follies...Language camp a success for the sixth straight year

Our friend Cheryl Gresczyk died. She was the wife of Rick Gresczyk. Our family watched as she fought her illnesses with dignity and courage. Cheryl, you will be missed by everyone in this household. We were saddened by your leaving but were glad that your pain is now over.

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Fond du Lac Follies motored nowhere. That's right, we just stayed in Sawyer so we could hold the Kiwenz Language Camp for the sixth year in a row. Event organizers Rick Greczyk (my brother), Pat Northrup (my wife) and I had been planning the event for months. Kiwenz Campground was prepared for the campers. The grass was cut and the existing waaginoganan were repaired by Jim Northrup lll and Leroy Brown Bull. People from Mashkawizen helped in this part of the preparations. We have a long list of other people and organizations who helped us make the camp happen. Those names will be at the bottom of the column.

We wanted to provide a true northern Minnesota experience for the campers so all mosquitoes within a mile radius were invited also. We thought the mosquitoes were tired of our old Sawyer Indian blood and were anxious to taste new blood from the Cities and elsewhere.

Some campers were worried the language camp wouldn't happen because of the fog and rain. We assured them that the old people used Ojibwemowin whether it was raining or not. We would too.

Rick had arranged for the cadre of fluent speakers who would help with the language learning. These speakers were Meg Noodin and Mike Zimmerman, Leonard and Mary Moose, Rick Gresczyk and son Randy Gresczyk, Memengwa and Mary were the language helpers. The campers learned Ojibwemowin in the mornings while the afternoons were devoted to Ojibwe arts.  

With the assistance of Mi-zi-way Desjarlait and the Circle of Generations drum, round dances were randomly held. Frank Montano loaned his public address system to the language camp and that kept people from trying to holler across the campgrounds.

The artists who came to teach their parts of the culture were: Charlie Nahganub — manoomin knockers, Misco Benayshii — moccasins, Theresa Morrison — beading, Frank Montano — cedar flutes, Rocky Makes Room — quill work, Joe Rordak — birch bark canoe models, and I taught birch bark basket making. Other artists were involved also.

Dr. Arnie Vainio became known as the Science Dude to some of the children. He came to show some fun science facts to the assembled Anishinaabe. I believe he was hoping to spark an interest in science among the young ones.

On Friday we had a talent show and a mini-powwow. Digger DeRusha, Frank Montano and Jake Vainio provided the guitar and mandolin picking, others used a hand drum with their songs. I call it a mini-powwow because there were no royalty or contest numbers on the dancers. There was a pretty good entry but I wouldn't call it grand, maybe half a grand. We also had a potato dance and a game of musical chairs. There was much laughter at Kiwenz Campground.

Hope Flannigan led the nature walk where the campers learned some useful plants, and their names in English and Ojibwe.

Saturday we held the canoe races on Big Lake. This is one of the most anticipated lake activities, I believe. There were two categories, below 16 and above 16. I wanted them to have an over-71 category but I was advised I might be the only one in that race. I said "Yeah, what's your point? A win is still a win."

Pete and Bimbo provided the rescue boat services. We know it is very rare for people to tip their canoes and fall in but we wanted to be prepared. I decided against listing all the people who helped us, the list is quite long and there were many individuals who were not part of an organization. So, for those people I say Apii ji go miigwech. To those who helped clean up the Kiwenz Campground at the end I will say see you next year.


Next month will be the last Fond du Lac Follies I write, it will be 25 years since I started. I have had much fun with it over the years. One year back when I first started, an irate group wrote a letter and signed a petition saying I wrote a joke they didn't like. Another year a Rez politician said I wrote something untrue. I got a newspaper and went over my column line by line. Everything I wrote was true. After he was done whining I told him Mike Hazard was making a movie about me. I showed the RBC man my microphone and pointed out the camera. He left.


We are happy to announce the birth of Jim Northrup V.

The Views expressed in this column belong to the writer alone. They are not meant to represent this newspaper, the Reservation, Eric Snowden, this Reservation Business Committee, FdL Construction, the CIA, the BIA, those folks administrating the Cobell, or anyone else.

Comments and bingo packs (in 25 years of begging I never got one) can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016; email; facebook name Jim Northrup but not on Twitter.