1,000 Friends: Heid E. Erdrich’s Tribute to Jim Denomie
“Tributes, not transactions, are the currency of friendship,” writes poet Heid E. Erdrich in remembrance of her friend, Ojibwe painter Jim Denomie, who passed away March 1. “As a writer, all I could offer as tribute were words, so there are poems for Jim in each of my books. I always wanted to write more for Jim, about him, with him.”
Telling of a friendship that became kinship, she writes that theirs is “one of a thousand great stories, a thousand strokes in a fantastically rich image he created in friendships.”
Of course, although I feel him going into the universe, a part of me hopes Jim stays with us through his art. For all his surrealist images, his subjects were as down to earth as Jim himself. That world of Jim’s imagination not only opens to the beyond, it goes beneath what we see here, beneath Minnesota Nice, beneath the excuses of politics and the coverup of history. His visions rise from ground fertilized by the blood of Dakota and Ojibwe people, of Natives at Standing Rock, Black mothers at George Floyd Square, repressed peoples across the map.