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Posts Tagged ‘indian reservation’

Photo: Star Tribune
Ojibwe poet Jim Northrup

I have been trying to learn something about tribal cultures in the United States. I liked Spokane/Coeur d’Alene tribal member Sherman Alexie’s Thunder Boy (a charming picture book for young children) and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (an early, painful collection of short stories). Now I am reading some Native American poetry.

One poet, Jim Northrup, recently died. Here is a beautiful obit by Jana Hollingsworth in the Duluth News Tribune.

“Jim Northrup was a ‘tough man’ who taught his eldest sons to survive in the elements by living in a tepee on the Fond du Lac Reservation for several years, when money and jobs were scarce.

“But it was more than physical survival, said his son, Matthew, on Tuesday, the day after his father died from cancer-related complications. He taught them how to be strong in a world that didn’t treat everyone the same, he said, using humor — and education — as tools.

” ‘ “When you have really nothing else,” he said to me a lot, “you have your humor,” Matthew said. ” ‘When you grow up poor on the rez and when you grow up a lower class in society, you realize that.’

“Northrup, an award-winning writer of books, columns, plays and poetry — and a prominent member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — died [in July]. He was 73.

“Northrup was a storyteller, known for his stark and honest writing about his experience as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and his early years at a federal boarding school. He was funny and pointed in his writings about everyday life on the reservation, politics and change in Indian Country. He wrote as a way to heal himself from some of the trauma he experienced during the war, he said earlier this year.

” ‘I knew my poetry was being used in vets’ groups to help people open up (and) maybe even write their own poetry as part of their healing,’ he told the News Tribune in March. ‘It worked for me, so I hoped it helped (others).’ ”

More here, where you can hear Northrup read a poem in Ojibwe about passing along the culture. Read the whole obit. It’s really lovely. I hated to cut it.

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Photo: Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times
Lyle, Miles, and Ty Thompson have ignited a scramble for Native American recruits at lacrosse programs.

Maybe everyone who follows lacrosse knows that Native American players of the game that Indians invented tend to go to Syracuse University for college sports, but I didn’t.

I read the sports section only if there is a human-interest story, and today a NY Times front page article about a family of exceptional lacrosse players drew me in.

Zach Schonbrun writes, “The Albany lacrosse coaches stared at a small projector screen, searching for the black streak of a three-foot-long ponytail swooping toward the goal.

“They were watching Lyle Thompson, an Onondaga Indian from upstate New York, who has become a Wayne Gretzky-like figure in collegiate lacrosse. …

“He is a strong contender for this year’s Tewaaraton Award, lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy, which has never gone to a Native American. If he does not win, it could easily go to his older brother, Miles, who scored 43 goals in 12 games for Albany last season. And if Miles does not win, their cousin and teammate, Ty, has a chance.

“The Thompsons, who grew up on a reservation in upstate New York, are more than exceptional athletes thriving in the sport of their ancestors, a sport that is still endowed with deeply spiritual significance to Native Americans. They are trailblazers who have upended the athletic world and reservation life, and their success has ignited a scramble for Native American recruits at lacrosse programs across the country.” There’s lots more to the story here.

I especially liked this part, “One recent afternoon, Lyle Thompson, 21, took out a rattle made from the shell of a snapping turtle he had caught while golfing with his oldest brother, Jeremy. He uses the rattle to make music, part of the way he stays connected with Indian culture. Learning the Onondaga language is another.

 Art: Smithsonian Archives
What began as stickball, a Native American Indian contest played by tribal warriors for training, recreation and religious reasons, has developed over the years into the interscholastic, professional and international sport of lacrosse. See Federation of International Lacrosse.

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