Documentary about Pelkie's Finnish history premieres Saturday

 An image from “Pelkie: 100 Years of Finnishness in Michigan’s North Woods" (Courtesy: Up North Films).
An image from “Pelkie: 100 Years of Finnishness in Michigan’s North Woods" (Courtesy: Up North Films). (WLUC)
Published: Nov. 7, 2019 at 7:47 AM EST
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The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center will host a premiere showing Saturday afternoon of the new documentary,

In addition to the film, there will be a community forum on the nature of these U.P. small town havens. The first, during the intermission, will discuss the creation of these ethnic communities and the second after the film will focus on the “unmaking” of these communities as is depicted in the film.

The film will begin at 1:00 p.m. in John X. Jamrich Hall 1100. Admission is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted. Coffee and snacks will be served. Discussions will be led by Dr. Loukinen, Dr. Jon Saari, professor emeritus in History, NMU and Daniel Truckey, Director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center.

Pelkie, Michigan is a small rural community in Baraga County and the film tells the story of the community’s rise as a center for Finnish ethnicity and its eventual decline. The four remaining members of Pelkie’s second generation and their third-generation children tell the story of Pelkie, their once thriving dairy farming and logging community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Between 1890 and 1920, about 320,000 Finns came to America. Although many lived in cities, they became the “most rural” of all European immigrant groups, other than the Old Order Amish. They created “havens in the woods,” cultural islands surrounded by forests where their ancestral language and customs persisted for a century. Although they amounted to less than one percent of the American population, they currently form 16% of the population in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and especially the Upper Peninsula where they are concentrated. They are largest ancestral group in the western UP.

Although traces of Finnish ancestry remain, Pelkie is now a diverse community of Mennonites, aging folk hippies, nature-loving back-to- the-landers, urban retirees, home-based entrepreneurs, casino employees, and prison guards.

Michael Loukinen, PhD, is a cultural sociologist and a filmmaker. He has intermittently studied Pelkie, MI, a Finnish American farming/ logging community, for almost a half a century. In this oral history documentary, three generations of living and deceased, current and former residents weave attachments to people, places and events into a portrait the blends community and ethnic identity.

Watch the above video from the TV6 Morning News to learn more about the documentary.

To order a copy of the documentary, call Susan at NMU at 906-227-2706. A two-disc set is 161 minutes total. The $42 cost includes shipping and tax.

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