Thursday, 6 April 2017

Preserving Finnish Cultural Heritage in Red Lodge, Montana

Dear Readers,

The Finlandia Foundation of Montana is dedicated to capturing and restoring the cultural heritage of the Finns and Scandinavians in Montana. There are stories that need to be retold and repeated. There is a history of Finnish miners and immigrants who came to Montana, especially to Butte and Red Lodge, that needs to be preserved for the next generation and the next generation. This in mind, I wanted to share a piece by Claudia Morley, who is a member of the Red Lodge Knights and Ladies of Kaleva, in Roberts, Montana. This was published by the Finlandia Foundation National in the fall 2012 newsletter. The entire newsletter can be found here.

Red Lodge Knights and Ladies of Kaleva are a diverse group of Finns located in Red Lodge, Montana. The men are members of Kalevaisen Maja #5, established in 1900; and the Ladies are Mielikin Tupa # 1 formed in 1904. We are an International fraternal organization with lodges located in seven states and Canada.

We were founded in 1898 in Belt, Montana, by John Stone, Finnish immigrant. His sole purpose was to assist other Finnish immigrants with their transition to America (i.e., social pressures, citizenship, employment and education). Red Lodge is located at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains on U.S. 212, a scenic highway into Yellowstone National Park. Coal mining was Red Lodge’s largest employer at the beginning of the century. Then in 1919 a coal miner’s strike closed many of the area mines; by 1940 another two large mines closed. With these mine closures, the membership declined as a large number of Finns were forced to move and seek a livelihood elsewhere. The men’s group continued but the Ladies Mielikin Tupa folded sometime during the 1960s. However, in 1989 interest was revived and Red Lodge Mielikin Tupa #1 was reinstated in 1990.

Today our Tupa totals 98 and Maja has 90 members. Raising money for scholarships to assist with education is a focus, but we also host fund raisers to maintain our lodge and grounds, Kaleva Park, Inc., which is available to the public for both private and public events. We are pleased to have joined FFN to be a part of a larger Finnish network. We thank Anita Smiley for her inspiration. It is fun to share our Finnish culture and we look forward to staying active in our community over the next century.

The Finlandia Foundation of Montana is proud to recognize the work and dedication of the Red Lodge Knights and Ladies of Kaleva for the preservation of Finnish cultural heritage in Montana, but more importantly, this great group of people has been keeping the cultural narratives, events, and activities alive for well over one hundred years!