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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company, Limited : a Finnish-Canadian millenarian movement in British Columbia Salo, Allan Henry


This thesis is primarily concerned with the activities of a group of Finnish-Canadians in British Columbia. They attempted to found an Utopian community on Malcolm Island between 1901 and 1905. The activities of these people, the Kalevan Kansa or descendants of Kaleva, an ancient Finnish mythological figure, were millenarian in nature. During this period there were distinct changes in their social relations and their new undertakings predicted the arrival of a different and more ideal form of social organization. The content of that organization was revealed to them by their leader, Matti Kurikka, who proposed to make a joint-stock company the basis of the new community. The subsequent settlement scheme was known as the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company, Limited. Indicative of their aspirations, Kurikka and his followers named their new community Sointula, the place of harmony. In order to explore more fully the millenarian activities this thesis also investigates their roots in the historical development of Finnish identity and the ability of Finns to fulfill those perceptions in day to day activities. In addition, the thesis focuses on the related problems concerning identity encountered in the aftermath of the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company by those settlers who remained at Sointula. The activities which were undertaken in the relatively brief period between 1901 and 1905 represented a rapid coalescing of ideas and aspirations into activities. Among the Vancouver Island Finns who were primarily coal miners the new society appeared immanent. To them and to others who came from various parts of the United States, Canada and Europe the vision of the joint-stock company encompassed recognizable characteristics of a more ideal form of social organization. As such the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company provides an empirically accountable and distinctive aspect of the Kalevan Kansa movement. From its description and aims it is possible to make suggestions about the intellectual and charismatic appeal of Matti Kurikka and about some of the aspirations of the participants themselves. However, the fundamental nature of the energy released by the Utopian vision largely remains to be inferred. The first chapter of the thesis presents a brief ethnographic introduction to the activities of the Kalevan Kansa during this period. In addition, it proposes some relevant methodological considerations reflective of the content of millenarian situations. These considerations influence the direction and content of the following chapters. The approach which is taken remains open ended inasmuch as the activities of the Kalevan Kansa are seen as part of a much broader historical process which is reflective of the ethnographic situation as well as of certain more universal anthropological problems. The method adopted cannot provide an explicit account of why the activities took the direction they did nor why they occurred at a particular time. However, it does focus on the dynamics inherent within a continuing set of problems and contradictions to be resolved. As such it has permitted a form of discussion which has not been totally bound to the contingencies of the situation. Yet, the character of the Utopian activity of the Kalevan Kansa remains significant in terms of its all consuming nature and its attempt to institute an idealistic social order. As such, it was clearly religious in nature and represented a societal rite of passage. The second chapter is primarily historical. By taking into account the historical background of the Kalevan Kansa, further light is shed onto the goals and activities of the group. The past has provided only a partial answer to questions of origin since the movement in many aspects remained independent of its historical legacy. However, it provided a point of departure. Inasmuch as the method employed and suggested by the content and focus of this chapter remains applicable to other situations it is anthropological. The third chapter explores the Utopian activities in detail. Chronologically, the discussion moves from a point where the Finns were regarded as being morally and materially inferior to others. From there the chapter moves to a discussion about the redefinition of power and the nature of individual obligations articulated by the chosen leader, to the eventual attempt to realize the new way of being in terms of appropriate social relationships. Progressively it was apparent among the Kalevan Kansa that the vision of the joint-stock company could not provide the emotional and intellectual unity which could overcome individual and ideological differences. As increasing numbers of the participants began to ignore their obligations without sanction the energy of the movement was consumed by conflicting interests. The activities of the Kalevan Kansa can, however, be differentiated from the more mundane forms of political and economic unrest among disparate groups by the sudden emergence of emotional and moral passion focused and activated by their leader, Kurikka. The final chapter looks at Sointula during an active period of socialist politics after the failure of the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company, Limited. In conjunction with these activities which were largely group-oriented, the chapter also focuses on the content of individual experiences among a particular group within the community. Insights are derived from fieldwork interviews and from a thematic and structural analysis of a corpus of narrative songs. Throughout the thesis the focus remains on the central issues of identity and the moral implications that its varying definitions have implied. The ethnographic detail provides an indication of how a particular group of people chose to confront the problem and of how its constituents were reformulated through a series of encounters in a historical time span. In this series the millenarian activities of the Kalevan Kansa were the most unique and profound in their intensity and appeal. A comprehensive bibliography of relevant sources in English and Finnish follows the text. The thesis also contains six appendixes. The first is my translation of Matti Halminen's first hand account of the Utopian activities at Sointula and his role in them. The next four appendixes contain copies of documents relevant to the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company, Limited. The last appendix is a collection of Finnish song texts recorded at Sointula in 1973.

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