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Finnish Settlements

Three isolated rural areas may be discerned where Finns have concentrated. The New Finland colony was founded by a small number of “Church Finns” affiliated with the Suomi (Finnish) Lutheran Synod in 1887 in the backcountry Clayridge district, northeast of Whitewood in southeast Saskatchewan. Today their descendants in the area number less than a hundred. In 1910, more people of Finnish ethnic origin arrived from earlier Canadian and American colonies to settle in a second backcountry district, Rock Point, about 40 km southwest of Outlook in central Saskatchewan. This settlement was divided between the fundamentalist Laestadian sect, concentrated in the Rock Point district to the east, and leftist “Red Finns,” concentrated in the King George district to the west. Repression of Communists in Saskatchewan during the 1930s led to the emigration of some of these leftists to Karelia in the Soviet Union. Finns in the Rock Point district held socials to support the Finnish Relief Fund in 1939.Today an estimated 300–400 Finns remain in the settlement, inclusive of the former Finland school district and extending toward Macrorie, Dunblane, Birsay, Lucky Lake, and Dinsmore. Despite rural depopulation, these descendants still retain a strong sense of Finnish identity, evidenced in many folk traditions. Finns from this latter settlement gradually began to obtain summer cottage property in the Turtle Lake area, northwest of North Battleford. Some eventually settled there on a more permanent basis, so that now there may be as many as 300–400 Finns and Scandinavians in the area, in resort colonies around the lakes and in the nearby communities of Turtleford and Mervin. Recent census data (2001) indicated that 3,675 people in Saskatchewan claimed Finnish ethnic origin, of whom 20% (745) claim to be only Finnish and 80% (2,930) partly Finnish.

Alan Anderson

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Further Reading

New Finland Historical and Heritage Society. 1982. Life in the New Finland Woods: A History of New Finland, Saskatchewan. Edmonton: Ronalds Western Printing; Warwaruk, L. 1984. Red Finns on the Coteau. Saskatoon: Core Communications.
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