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  • Writer's pictureVesa Oja

Butte - Piutti 2006

4th Finglish trip August 2006 #2

The Finntown of Butte, Montana gave way to a surface mine. Butte was known in Finglish as Piutti. Berkeley Pit, formerly an open-pit copper mine, is now a lake poisoned by arsenic.

The pit and its water present a serious environmental problem, because the water is releasing acid. When the pit water level eventually reaches the natural water table, estimated to occur by around 2020, the pit water will reverse flow back into surrounding groundwater.

Erv Niemi opened The Helsinki Bar in 1954, one the only remaining Finnish “watering holes” left in Butte’s former Finntown, in 2006 it ironically changed its name to the Helsinki Yacht Club.

John Kotka is genuinely excited about his Finnish surname, which means Eagle. John is a carpenter, his grandfather Adolf was also a carpenter in a mine, and John still has his toolbox. Adolf came first to Minnesota from Finland.

John’s father would take him often to the Helsinki Bar, where he was called Pikku Jussi (Little John). John Kotka was born in Butte and lived in Finntown until the age of four. John is the youngest child in his family; he has three sisters and two brothers.

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