Breakfast Conversations with Jim Northrup: The Circle Newspaper Fundraiser
Last Thursday morning marked the first fundraiser for The Circle newspaper at All Nations Indian Church, where the The Circle News Ambassador Council called upon board members, writers, and new and long-time readers to raise funds for the leading Native American news and arts publication in Minnesota. The 100-seat breakfast was filled to capacity, with readings by authors Diane Wilson (Dakota) and Jim Northrup (Anishinaabe).
The Circle has been a staple in Indian country since 1980, with a circulation of 10,000. It has served as a major supporter of the local arts and culture in the community, as well as being a main source of information for elders and youth alike. Since the event was such a success, they are already discussing plans for the Native American Music Festival taking place in June 2012, which will feature local Native artists.
We sat down to discuss The Circle with Jim Northrup. His 800-word column, Fond du Lac Follies, has appeared every month for nearly 23 years.
What is the significance of The Circle newspaper? Why is it important for people to support Native journalism?
The Circle is important because it is a free press; one of the basics in the Bill Of Rights. On the reservation we have a newspaper, but they do not print letters to the editor nor opinion pieces that are critical of tribal government. The Golden Rule applies here: Them with the gold make the rules.
The Circle fills the informational needs of the Anishinaabeg and other tribes in its circulation area. I have been writing the Fond du Lac Follies for 22 years, in August it will be 23. I wanted to quit after 20 years but my wife suggested I go for 25.
You have a masterful way of weaving humor, history, and advice into your writing. How have you developed your skill over the years?
I think of what my readers want to read about, and the informational needs that are not being met by the mainstream media. The magic happens when I am rewriting and polishing the column. I read the final version out loud to my wife or any other relative I can capture, and sit down at the kitchen table. My ear is a better editor than my eye.
Do you ever find humor pouring into other parts of your life other than writing? Is there a joke you can tell that always gets people going?
My humor is constant. It is a part of me. One can hear me saying and commenting on things anywhere Indians are gathered. The joke that always works is, "Question: After you parch the wild rice, how long does it stay green? Answer: Until I eat it. Then it turns brown."
Who is your all-time favorite comedian?
I have so many favorite comedians it is hard to name one favorite. I like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. I was able to hang out with George when he came to Duluth once. We talked for about 20 minutes, and he agreed that "American-Americans" is a good way to describe us in the face of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, German-Americans, and so on.
I hang out with Charlie Hill, and have shared some of my questions with him. I like this new troupe called the 1491s. Dallas Goldtooth is a relative and friend, and they do a bit where people come to a medicine man for help with their personal problems and he slaps them.
What guidelines do you live by in life? Any advice for City Pages readers?
I used this in a short story, and it goes: Don't sweat the small shit, and it is all small shit unless they are shooting at you. I live the way I want to be treated, and I pray every morning and make an offering of tobacco.
Any plans for the holidays?
I am sure we will go to the casino for the cash and Ford truck drawings. My wife won a '64 Corvette at one of the casino drawings. She is afraid to drive it so I have to. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my family. That beautiful convertible is now hibernating for the winter. The license plates say 'Rez Car.' That Corvette actually appreciates in value every year.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Minneapolis & St. Paul and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.