|Northrup was born on the Fond du Lac Chippewa (Ojibway) reserve in Minnesota and lives the
traditional life of the Ojibwa-Anishinaabe Indians in northern Minnesota. Northrup, who was in the U.S.
Marines India Company, developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while serving in Vietnam. "I
had PTSD before doctors gave it a name," the author told Abbey Thompson for her Indian Country
Today Online article about Northrup. PTSD support groups within the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs use some of the author's poems, including "Shrinking Away" and "Wahbegan," as part of the
When Northrup returned from the Vietnam, he wandered around the United States for a decade
taking various jobs until he finally returned home to the reservation and began writing. In a profile of
Northrup for the Indian Country Today Online, Thompson remarked that "audiences far and wide
have come to know Jim Northrup for his brilliant and hilarious storytelling." Thompson added:
"Northrup's use of humor and honesty to transform the human condition from fear, anger, and despair
into love, kindness, and healing is a brilliant example of the importance of the arts, and the revered
gift of storytelling."
Northrup's writings include poetry, essays, fiction, and plays and often touch upon his Vietnam
experiences. He has authored the syndicated "Fond du Lac Follies" column for more than fifteen
years. His plays include Shinnob Jep, which is a parody of the television game show Jeopardy and
features Northrup playing the show's host as he guides contestants through various questions related
to American Indian history, society, and politics. Northrup's works have also appeared in several
anthologies, including Nitaawichige: Selected Poetry and Prose by Four Anishinaabe Writers and
Nitaawichige: Selected Poetry and Prose by Four Anishinaabe Writers.
In his first book, Walking the Rez Road, the author provides a collection of more than forty short
stories and poems that revolve around the central character of Luke Warmwater. According to Indian
Country Today Online contributor Thompson, the character is based on Northrup. Like Northrup,
Luke comes home to the reservation only to find poverty and a corrupt tribal government. A
contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that the poems and short stories alternate, with the poems
representing the collection's "emotional core, at once advancing the narrative and commenting on the
events in the stories."
In his next book, The Rez Road Follies: Canoes, Casinos, Computers, and Birch Bark Baskets,
published in 1997, Northrup provides a series of essays about life in general on an Indian reservation.
The author also writes about his own life, including being taken away from the reservation and sent to
the government-run Pipestone Boarding School in Pipestone, Minnesota, when he was still a child so
he could learn English and the white culture.
The author, who tried to run away from the school, recalls the bleak experience, which included
extreme loneliness. Although touching on many sensitive and emotional topics, including Indian
suicides and the effect of Indian casinos on Indian life, the author uses humor throughout. For
example, when he asks who came up with the idea for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he comes to the
conclusion that it was "someone who was really mad at us."
"Cutting, clear, often poetic, Northrup's words grab your attention and don't let it go," wrote Patricia
Monaghan in a review for Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that the author
"succeeds in entertaining while instructing us about modern and ancient Indian cultures." Northrup
has also adapted the book as a play titled The Rez Road Follies.
• Walking the Rez Road (short stories and poems), Voyageur Press (Stillwater, MN), 1993.
• The Rez Road Follies: Canoes, Casinos, Computers, and Birch Bark Baskets (essays), Kodansha
International (New York, NY), 1997.
• Shinnob Jep (play), produced in Minneapolis, MN, at the Weisman Art Museum, 1997.
• Rez Road 2000 (play), produced in St. Paul, MN, at the Great American History Theatre, 2000.
Evertsen, S. (2004). Native American Literatures: An Introduction.
Northrup, Jim, (1997). The Rez Road Follies: Canoes, Casinos, Computers, and Birch Bark Baskets.
Noori, M. (2011). Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez.