"Pelkie" TV Premiere
As part of WNMU-TV13's Festival 21, the Beaumier UP Heritage Center co-sponsoring "Pelkie: 100 Years of Finnishness in Michigan's North Woods", a 3-episode series produced by Dr. Michael M. Loukinen. The series premieres on TV this coming Monday, March 15, at 8pm on WNMUTV 13 PBS, where it can be watched in its entirety.
Through the oral history of its residents, "Pelkie" focuses on the multigenerational Finnish migrant communities in the Western Lake Superior region, areas called 'havens in the woods'. In these havens, Finnish immigrants formed communities while working in the mines. As the mining industry faced labor strikes, Finnish immigrants started logging and establishing small dairy farms.
Episode 1. From Copper Miners to Farmers, 1hr 6 min
The Sturgeon River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. had deposited rich soil in the Pelkie area for eons. Lumberjacks and farmers cleared the land to make way for farms and the railroad connected them to the world. Mutual helping traditions led to a farmer's co-op, Finnish Lutheran churches sprang up and even a socialist hall was built. It was a thriving dairy farming and logging community.
Episode 2. Third Generation: Cows, Kids, and Barns, 58 min
Second and third-generation Finns worked on the farms as kids, which instilled in them a good work ethic and good social responsibility values. They had the freedom to run and play, and there was a strong culture of visiting and sauna among neighbors. Kids initially spoke Finnish in one-room schools. As the second and third generations matured, by seeking work and education, they migrated.
Episode 3. A Farewell to Dairy Farming, 44 min
Children and grandchildren of the Finnish immigrants move away to go to school and many found work in Detroit. They married non-Finns outside of the community and many did not return. Finnish culture weakened in Pelkie. At the same time milk prices bottomed out and big box stores outside of Pelkie outcompeted the Co-op. Mennonites and strangers moved in while some Finnish Americans remained.
The producer of “Pelkie” Dr. Michael M. Loukinen taught sociology at NMU for 40 years while he also worked intermittently on this series.
The Beaumier UP Heritage Center is a museum and educational center on the campus of Northern Michigan University. It celebrates the history and culture of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan