People of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society Press

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Finns in Minnesota

By Arnold Alanen

The first Finnish immigrants arrived in R ed Wing in 1864, the vanguard of thousands who eventually and resolutely placed Minnesota second among the states in terms of Finnish population. Today we may recognize Minnesota’s “Finnishness” in the popular sauna, in the characteristic tenacity known as sisu, or in place names and cultural markers that link to homeland. The newest contribution to the People of Minnesota series traces the Finns’ migration to the state, particularly its northeastern region; their log construction techniques, including dovetail notching; and their ethnic organizations, from religious to political to fraternal. Colorful sidebars enliven the narrative, highlighting such topics as “Finglish,” New World legends, and the 1920s Olympic competitors in track and field known as the “Flying Finns.” A separate thread tells the story of the Finland Swedes—“the minority within a minority” whose members were born in Finland but spoke Swedish and thus straddled two ethnic groups, belonging fully to neither. The book concludes with a personal narrative of Fred Torma (1888–1979), a miner and carpenter from Nashwauk, who describes establishing a Socialist hall, involvement in the 1907 Mesabi strike, and founding a cooperative boardinghouse and store. His is just one engaging example of the vibrant lives and legacy of Finnish Americans in Minnesota.

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Ojibwe in Minnesota

Anton Treuer

With insight and candor, noted Ojibwe scholar Anton Treuer traces thousands of years of the complicated history of the Ojibwe people—their economy, culture, and clan system and how these have changed throughout time, perhaps most dramatically with the arrival of Europeans into Minnesota territory. Ojibwe in Minnesota covers the fur trade, the Iroquois Wars, and Ojibwe-Dakota relations; the treaty process and creation of reservations; and the systematic push for assimilation as seen in missionary activity, movernment policy, and boarding schools. Treuer also does not shy away from today’s controversial topics, covering them frankly and with sensitivity—issues of sovereignty as they influence the running of casinos and land management; the need for reform in modern tribal government; poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse; and constitutional and educational reform. He also tackles the complicated issue of identity and details recent efforts and successes in cultural preservation and language revitalization. A personal account from the state’s first female Indian lawyer, Margaret Treuer, tells her firsthand experience of much change in the community and looks ahead with renewed cultural strength and hope for the first people of Minnesota.

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Somalis in Minnesota

by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

The story of Somalis in Minnesota begins with three words: sahan, war, and martisoor. Driven from their homeland by civil war and famine, one group of Somali sahan, pioneers, discovered well-paying jobs in the city of Marshall, Minnesota. Soon the war, news, traveled that not only was employment available but the people in this northern state, so different in climate from their African homeland, were generous in martisoor, hospitality, just like the Somali people themselves. The diaspora began in 1992, and today more than fifty thousand Somalis live in Minnesota, the most of any state. Many have made their lives in small towns and rural areas, and many more have settled in Minneapolis, earning this city the nickname “Little Somalia” or “Little Mogadishu.” Amiable guide Ahmed Yusuf introduces readers to these varied communities, exploring economic and political life, religious and cultural practices, and successes in education and health care. he also tackles the controversial topics that command newspaper headlines: alleged links to terrorist organizations and the recruitment of young Somali men to fight in the civil war back home. This newest addition to the people of Minnesota series captures the story of the state’s most recent immigrant group at a pivotal time in its history.

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