Thanks for a quarter-century of Fond du Lac Follies


By now we should all know that Lex Porter of the Fond du Lac Reservation should be recognized as one of the code talkers who helped the United States in their efforts during World War II. The family of Lex Porter was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his efforts. Chair Karen Diver brought the award back to the family from Washington, D.C.  I wonder what other language speaker he was talking to?


Well, this is it folks. The final curtain comes clanging down on the Fond du Lac Follies. After 25 years of writing a monthly column I decided to step back and hang up my spurs and computer. What a different world it was... of course it was 1989  and I was a quarter century younger. Let me see, that must be at least 15 Rez Cars ago, probably just as many Rez dogs ago too.  

Gambling was in its infancy then, I think all we had going was bingo. Now with two casinos, we are in a death cage match with Duluth over the profits of one of them. Apparently the winner will be decided by who can spend the most money in attorney fees.

On the Rez the monthly per capita payment has kept the lights on in some homes, made car payments and has put food on some tables, the rest of us use plates. The per cap payments has given us a higher standard of living and even a higher tax bracket. Remember how hard it was to live on zero bucks a month?

Of course there have been some problems associated with gambling.  One is we think money can solve anything. Two is we think money can solve anything.

* * * * *

The Fond du Lac Veterans Powwow was held at the Mashkawisen grounds in Sawyer. We had our usual Free Coffee For Veterans hooch set up to pass out coffee. At one point I heard the powwow announcer say there were over 670 dancers. Now gossip on the moccasin internet tells me we may have to build another larger powwow grounds to hold the event, maybe in Cloquet. I have a better idea, let us quit making veterans.

We were given our usual gifts of hats, shirts, and manoomin. I am glad they skipped the fireworks part of the program.

* * * * *

Manoominike is approaching.  Once again I am looking forward to getting into my canoe to harvest the wild rice. I like living my life with the seasons and I will continue to do it as long as I am living.

We had a good spring and enjoyed making maple syrup. Our summer was good also because we made a lot of friends and were able to teach quite a few people how to work with birch bark, basswood bark and green willow frames to make baskets.

* * * * *

By the time this is read we will have returned from Witchita, Kan. We are motoring south to take part in the Vietnam Veterans of America's Educational Convention. I have been notified I am to be honored with an Excellence in Arts award for my body of work and my time in Vietnam. Ray Earley, and my wife Patricia Northrup and I will be the trio of drivers who will be heading south on Interstate 35. We are going to be playing Cowboys and Indians because we plan on visiting the Old Cowtown Museum and the Mid-America All Indian Center.

I always feel good when I am around Vietnam veterans.

* * * * *

“Dirty Copper,” my sixth book, is out as of July 1. I will do readings at bookstores in some Minnesota cities including Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Twenty-five years ago I was just beginning my writing life. Since then my writing has taken me all over the United States including a gig for NASA, the National Museum of the American Indian, Lincoln Center in NYC and other places like Scotland, Norway, Mexico City, Canada, Hungary and Red Lake.

Along the way I have also picked up a few awards like the Minnesota Book Award, the Northeast Minnesota Book Award, and a Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers award.

When I first started writing the Follies I was given $100 a column. When I finished I was still getting $100 a column. Chi miigwech to my readers, along the way I have had fun with the Questions of the Month and the disclaimer at the bottom of the column.

Giga-waabamin miinawaa

Contact Jim at or find him on Facebook under Jim Northrup.