Follies: “Now why would anyone vote for a Lantern?”

News From Indian Country 11-08

Fond du Lac Follies motored to Gakaabikaang, or as some people like to call it – Minneapolis. Of course I drove that shiny Corvette.

I was invited south by Rick Gresczyk to talk to his Native American Literature class at MCTC, Metro Community & Technical College.

We went to the classroom. I introduced myself to the students in Ojibwe and Rick translated it into English. I like to do that because speaking Ojibwe calms my stage fright. I knew the students had read my first book. It was easy to slip into my storytelling mode so I did.

I began by telling the students about the Federal Boarding School system. I told them I was six when I first rode the school bus to Pipestone. My older sister Judy was in the second grade.   

I knew my alphabet and could count to 99; Judy wouldn’t tell me the next number after 99.

In those days before telephones came to the Rez, our only way of staying connected with family was by letter. I didn’t know how to write.

Pauline Moose, an older girl, helped me write my Dear Maw, How Are You, I Am Fine letters. She also showed me how to mail them too. I have never forgotten her kindness in helping me when I was a little guy. Over the years when our trails crossed again I would give her a pound of rice, a jar of maple syrup or a book as my way of thanking her for helping me. She was one of the very few good memories of my time at that depressing, cultural robbing boarding school 300 miles from home.

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After the break we went back to the classroom where I continued talking about Native American Literature. Just for grins I asked the class if they could name any other Anishinaabeg writers? The results were not so pretty good. I helped them along by giving them the names of Louise Erdrich, Heid Erdrich, Lise Erdrich, Gerald Vizenor, Marcie Rendon, the Treuer brothers, Gordon Henry, Kim Blaeser, Don Two Rivers, Doyle Turner, Jr., Mark Turcotte, Jamison Mahto, and Al Everywhere Hunter.

I told them my dog stories and gave them some Questions of The Month from the Follies.

Before I left the classroom some of the students lined up to get my autograph.

One was named Kelly and I told her that her front name could also be a back name. I urged her not to marry a man with a back name of Kelly, otherwise her name would be Kelly Kelly.

I headed north, home to the Rez. I stopped at Tobies in Hinkles. A young Indian guy was admiring that Corvette. He asked if I was Jim Norhrup, I confessed that I was. He said his maw was Pauline Moose. He said she was just talking about knowing Jim Northrup because she used to write his letters for him. He said he just called her, she was awake and at home. I drove to her house. We visited and I again thanked her for writing my letters home for me. She said she had a secret, she said I didn’t know it but at the bottom of all those letters, she wrote Please send cookies. She said she was carrying that secret for a long time. We were telling the same story at about the same time but were 75 miles apart. Her story was better because she had more details.  


Al Franken came to Nagaajiwanaang, yup Fond du Lac. He is the only politician to come to this reservation this election season. The last one I remember was Mark Dayton, and we all know how well that worked out for him. I think he came in 7th in that six candidate race.

I asked some Fonjalackers who they were going to vote for – Franken or Coleman? One guy wondered why I thought he would vote for a lantern? 

My son Matthew and his partner Jackie and I were sitting in the front row, left of the center aisle, of course. When Al was done with his stumpage speech he asked for questions. I quickly raised my hand and he called on me. I told him this was a softball question. I told him I had met his wife a few years back at a Circle newspaper fund raiser. She was admiring my birch bark baskets I had brought. After looking at them closely she decided not to buy one. I finished by asking Al if he thought she had changed her mind about buying one of my baskets. Al said he would buy it for her since she was working so hard on his campaign. I sat back knowing I would vote for Al Franken.

Mii iw.