Welcome to my new blog. “Making Finnish-American History” is a spin-off of my forthcoming PhD dissertation which is focusing on late 20th Century Finnish-American history culture in Upper Michigan’s Copper Country.
The journey should be rather interesting. We will be browsing through scholarly works on Finnish-American history & culture, but we will also be investigating bilingual street signs (Finnish/English), ethnic literature and storytelling, ethnic media and ethnic festivities in the given area, often described as the “Capital of Finnish America”.
What I’m trying to find out is how does the Finnish-American community depict Finnishness and Americanness after 100 years since the original Finnish immigrants came to the area. How has a century of ‘American experience’ changed the Copper Country Finns and their understanding of Finnishness? And again, how have the Finns, now running from 3rd to 4th to 5th generations, changed their new environments? What kind of a role do old European-American ethnicities play in regional American cultures of the 21st century, if any?
To start the journey, I added a link above to YLE Finland’s interesting documentary on late Jingo Viitala Vachon, one of the greatest US born Finnish-American storytellers and musicians in the Copper Country area.
What we have here is a fascinating example of 2nd generation American Finnishness of the rural kind. Listen to her talk: home and memories of Finnishness are now located in the US instead of Finland (physical or abstract), and there is no longing for the Old Country anymore. Still the Finnishness in everything she says or does is clear. It has just changed a bit. Likewise the language, shifting between Finnish, English and Finglish.
With that being said, I believe our first lesson is: Finnishness and American Finnishness are two different narratives and two different tribes, and should also be treated as such. Like Jon Saari has said, “there are no clones”. Finnish and American Finnish histories started to divide with the first American born generation already. Some of them became ‘100% American’, and some of them, like Jingo, were equally proud of their American nationality and Finnish heritage at the same time. Enjoy the wonderful video!