The Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas has announced that its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award will be shared by two Native poets, John Trudell and Jim Northrup, both honored posthumously.
John Trudell (Santee Dakota) was living in Santa Clara, California when he walked on in December of 2015. Trudell was also an actor, musician, and political activist. As a political activist, he appeared as himself in Incident at Oglala and as an actor in the film based on that incident, Thunderheart.
Trudell served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and attended San Bernadino Valley Community College. His political activism included the Alcatraz takeover and the most active years of the American Indian Movement.
His books included Lines From a Mined Mind: The Works of John Trudell; Stickman: Poems, Lyrics, Talks; and Living in Reality: Songs Called Poems.
Jim Northrup (Ojibwe) spent his life connected to the Fond du Lac Reservation, located in what the settlers call Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and much of his work grew out of his wartime experiences. Northrup walked on in August of 2016.
Northrup’s best known work is Walking the Rez Road, published in 1993 and developed into a play in 2000. Other books include Rez Salute: The Real Deal Healer; Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View From the Rez; Rez Road Follies: Canoes, Casinos, Computers and Birch Bark Baskets; and Days of Obsidian, Days of Grace. In addition to Rez Road, Northrup as playwright penned the comedy, Shinnob Jep.
Northrup endeared himself to indigenous writers with these famous lines from Rez Road Follies:
I used to be known as a bullshitter but that didn't pay anything. I began calling myself a storyteller – a little better, more prestige – but it still didn't pay anything. I became a freelance writer. At first it was more free than lance, then I started getting money for my words.
Both Northrup and Trudell have more anthology publications than can be listed here. They will be honored at the 25th Anniversary Returning the Gift festival scheduled to be held in July in Norman, Oklahoma.