Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Roots are Calling


Please watch this short film of Mari Boine talking about her Laestadian roots. If you aren't familiar with her music, this is one of her more famous songs, Kuula Kuule (hear, hear).
Hear hear girl, boy  
Your roots are calling for you.
This summer, my roots called and I answered, big time. It was life-changing. How exactly, remains to be seen.

I planned to stay three weeks, and ended up staying four. After two days in Stockholm, I visited Luleå, Boden, Övertorneå, and Pajala (where I toured the Laestadius museum and met the town's first female Lutheran priest), Jukkasjärvi (where one of my ancestors was a Sàmi shaman), and Kiruna (where my great-aunt, a nurse who never married and devoted her life to the poor, has a street named after her). In Tärendö, I had the joy of listening to a jazz pianist play in the very room my ancestors were baptized and married in. I stopped briefly in Gällivare for Indian food, and spent two magical days in Jokkmokk (with a midnight-sun drive to Nattavaara) before heading south again. After several days in Uppsala, I took the ferry to Helsinki, and did a grand tour of Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Kerimäki, Heinävesi, Seinajoki, Ylistaro, and Vaasa.

The only thing I'd change? More time.

I found both countries, and all of Sàpmi, breathtakingly beautiful. The weather, mid-July to mid-August, was perfect, with just enough rain to make rainbows. It seemed sometimes as if I were in a dream, where anything could happen. More than once I was taken by surprise, being in the right place at the right time to see something delightful. As if the ancestors were sprinkling fairy dust and opening doors wherever I went.

If your roots are calling for you, listen. If I can help you plan a trip (or better yet, be your tour guide) send me a message.

To be continued . . .

4 comments:

  1. At first glance I thought Mari Boine's photo was actually David Bowie. Besides that I am glad to hear that you had a wonderful trip. While traveling through Finland I found it hard to believe that they would leave that place for America. It seemed so peaceful and safe over there. Old AP

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  2. Old AP, I know your question/comment was rhetorical, but a good summary can be found at wikipedia under Finnish Americans, I have copy pasted below. In short freedom of religion, posterity, and freedom from Russian rule. They moved to places that reminded them of home generally.

    The Great Migration (1870-1930)

    The years between 1870 and 1930 are sometimes referred as the Great "Migration" of Finns into North America. In the 1870s, there were only 3,000 migrants from Finland, but this figure was rapidly growing. New migrants often sent letters home, describing their life in the New World, and this encouraged more and more people to leave and try their luck in America. Rumors began of the acres of land that could be cleared into vast productive fields and the opportunity to earn "a barrel of American dollars" in mines, factories, and railroads.

    There were also professional recruiters, or "agents," employed by mining and shipping companies, who encouraged Finns to move to the United States. This activity was frowned upon by the authorities of the Grand Duchy, and was mostly done in secret. It was eventually brought to an end in the late 1880s by legislation in the U.S., but the decade still saw a 12-fold increase in the number of Finnish migrants compared to the previous decade, as 36,000 Finns left their home country for North America.

    The movement was strengthened even further in 1899, as the Russian government started an aggressive, coordinated campaign for the Russification of Finland. Many Finns chose to escape the repression by migrating into the New World, and, during the 1900s, there were 150,000 new migrants.

    Most Finns who left for America came from the impoverished rural regions of Ostrobothnia. Other prominent points of departure were Northern Savonia and the Torne Valley. Many of the emigrants left by ship from the port town of Hanko.
    MrSmith

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  3. Mr Smith, I had read several accounts of why they left including the personal accounts of my grandparents. My grandparents left through Hanko. What the immigrating Finns probably did not realize is that they were going to leave one type of labor exploitation in Finland to another form of the same here in America. However, in Finland the law was that only the oldest son in a family could buy land. This ensured that there would always be a large pool of landless farm hands who could be forced to work for low wages. It was basically a modified form of serfdom whereas at least in America the Finns knew they could buy their own property. I have stated previously how many of those immigrating Finns also brought along their own brimstone version of Laestadianism which was intermingled with superstition and folk beliefs. By settling in semi-isolated towns in the US they were able to perpetuate their beliefs for several generations but it is all starting to fall apart now with the rise of the internet information age. The old narrow-blinded generation is basically dying off and the new generation is no longer buying off on the religious baloney any more. Much like their fore parents who rejected their lives of economic exploitation in Finland, the descendants here in America are now basically abandoning religious exploitive themes such as exclusivity of doctrine, legalism, voodoo, isolationism, guilt & confession, new awakenism, and the suppression of women. They will end up being much happier having done so. Old AP

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  4. As a native Finn and being quite familiar with our history, I wonder what is the freedom of religion and the "Russian rule" which inspired your ancestors to move over to America?
    Finland was 109 years an autonomous part of Russian Empire. When you came from Russia over the border to Finland, many things did change: language, nationality, passport, laws, currency, postal stamps, religion, customs and even moral.
    I wonder, if somebody did not possess a full freedom for his religion, especially if he was a protestant or orthodox. For roman catholics that was not so easy before the full independence.

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