“Finndians” – not Indians

Many Finns moved to North America a little over a hundred years ago. There they met the Indians. Between 1860 and 1944, some 400,000 people flocked to America. Some people emigrated from Finland because of unemployment and of its policy of Russification before independence. Some, however, moved to America just for the sake of adventure.

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At first, many Finns worked in mines in Minnesota, in the states of Michigan and in Canada, but working in the mines was very dangerous, so they wanted to buy their own land and start farming. The only lands that were for sale were located near the reserves and where the Finns got to know the Indians at joint evening meetings and at the monitoring houses where they also traded with each other.

The Finns and the Indians combined their very same lifestyle. The Finns had a sauna and the Indians a sweat lodge. Both of them liked the sauna. Originally in Lapland, the Sámi have also lived in hut huts that are very similar to Native American tribes. The Finns and the Indians were also very hard-hitting privateers who enjoyed hunting, fishing and berry picking in the woods. Silence has also been an important common factor for them.

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The Indians taught the Finns how to grow corn and the use of herbs, while the Finns taught the Indians how to craft boats and how to build backpacks and other objects from birch bark. I also think they have been united by factors such that both nations have felt out of place in America in some way because the Indians had been driven into reserves and many Finns had left their country because of problems there.

They have also had dark similarities such as alcoholism, high suicide rates and a good sense of humor. Both have had a long tradition of telling stories. What better way than sitting by the fire and telling stories to each other?

Eventually, this was largely the case with the Ojibway Indians and that the Finns began to marry – and so the “Finndians” were born. When the Finns went to hunting they had the same common purpose as the Indians. They were just hunting what they needed for their own use. So they have always had enough food to eat.

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The areas where the Finns have settled have also had a lot of lakes that we also have in our home in Finland. Finns have also been named by other names than the Finndians. They are called Madoodiswan-inini and Omaakikiiwin. The first one means sweat lodge people because they liked bathing and the second means frog people because their speech to the Indians sounded like frog moaning.

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Then again, you can find the Northern Lights from Canada as well as all over Finland. Indians and Finns also have their own beliefs about the Northern Lights, so their thoughts have probably met well at this level as well. It would be nice to know how they have compared their beliefs to the night sky.

Pentti Haukipuro

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