The acclaimed poet, novelist, storyteller, and columnist Jim Northrup, who received VVA’s Excellence in the Arts Award at the 2014 National Leadership Conference, died of complications from cancer on August 1. Northrup, an Anishinaabe Indian, was 73 years old.
Jim Northrup enlisted in the Marine Corps at age ninteen in 1962, and served for four years. That included a thirteen-month tour of duty in Vietnam with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in the 3rd Marine Division from 1965-66.
The Vietnam War was a theme in much of Northrup’s work, especially his poetry and fiction. That includes his award-winning short story collection, Walking the Rez Road (1993), and Dirty Copper (2014), what turned out of be his last novel. In that book, Northrup brought back Luke Warmwater—the hero of Walking the Rez Road —to the Anishinaabe reservation in northern Minnesota after he’d survived a harrowing Vietnam War tour of duty.
The Vietnam War is never far from Luke Warmwater’s thoughts in this engaging novel, which covers his first few years after getting home. Warmwater has post-war nightmares and daytime flashbacks after becoming the first Native American deputy sheriff in Carlton County, Minnesota.
“His narratives about combat as a Marine in Vietnam and his insular life on the reservation, woven together like the traditional birch-bark baskets he made with his wife, Pat, might be heartbreaking or ribald but were typically leavened by his dry wit, ” Sam Roberts wrote in The New York Times obituar y.