Community celebrates Finnish heritage

HANCOCK — Every year, the Keweenaw Finnish community celebrates its heritage with Finland’s Independence Day.

The day has been celebrated at Finlandia University, formerly Suomi College, since the first anniversary of Finland’s independence in 1918. This year’s festivities at the University’s Finnish American Heritage Center were a special celebration of the 150th anniversary of Finns arriving in the Copper Country.

Finnish American Heritage Center Director Jim Kurtti said, “Well Hancock really is one of the nesting places of Finnish-American culture. Finns have been here for 150 years and this is the only place where they built a school of higher learning. And it was the place that they heard about in Finland long before they came. It was a destination site certainly.”

Kurtti is an Honorary Consul of Finland and hosted the Independence Day program. The program consisted of performances from local Finnish musicians and actors, speeches by Finnish Interns at the Heritage Center, and dances by a local Finnish dance group. Finland’s culture is alive in Hancock and there are plenty of ways to get in touch with one’s heritage through the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Kurtti said, “The Heritage Center is open 5 days a week at least and most evenings we have classes. We welcome people to come and to look at our exhibits, to use the archives. People really find that it’s a way to kind of fulfill their curiosity or to keep their heritage going by coming here.”