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Virtanen to present at online public symposium: Exploring Sugar Island’s Early Finnish History

January 12, 2022

HUMANA Sugar Island Symposium

In 1916, a Finnish immigrant to North America, Frank Aaltonen, visited Sugar Island, Michigan, and was highly impressed by the opportunities the island presented. The island was the traditional home of the Anishinaabeg, but by the early 20th century, its population was a mixture of several ethnicities. Aaltonen envisioned the island as a Finnish colony of farmers. A recruiting campaign ensued, and by the 1930s several hundred Finns had moved on the island. Join Finnish and American scholars in exploring this early Finnish settlement on Sugar Island from a variety of perspectives, also introducing some of the results of the HUMANA – Human Migration and Network Analysis: Developing New Research Methods for the Study of Human Migration and Social Change project at the University of Helsinki.

Participating in Session 2, “Finnish Land, Culture, and Ideologies”, will be Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen, Assistant Professor of Finnish & Nordic Studies at Finlandia University.

“This symposium offers a look at an often-underrecognized community in Finnish America–and the UP–that is both unique to its own time and space but also strongly a part of the common currents of Finnish American history and culture,” Dr. Virtanen said. “I am excited to share my own work in an event created by an international team of scholars that has engaged in researching this community for several years. The symposium will offer a look at a range of topics including important Finnish Americans who helped to found and foster the community, the relationships between Finnish settlers and Anishinaabe people who were already there, the locations in Finland where these settlers came from, and the role of social networks that existed and were utilized by Finns in developing and creating this community. It will be an interesting event for researchers and community members alike.”


Saturday, January 15, 2022
10 AM – 12 PM EST (5 PM – 7 PM EET)

The program will be organized into two sessions:

Session 1: “Finding the People: A Network Analysis Approach”
Presenters: Francis Flavin, Saara Kekki, Olli Saukko

Session 2: “Finnish Land, Culture, and Ideologies”
Presenters: Justin Gage, Rani-Henrik Andersson, Rainer Smedman, Hilary-Joy Virtanen

For more information or to register, email saara.kekki@helsinki.fi



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