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  • Writer's pictureVesa Oja

Sointula 2006

4th Finglish trip August 2006 #4

Life was difficult and work in the mines was hard in the early 1900s at Nanaimo, Vancouver Island at the far western end of Canada. The local Finnish miners had heard of Matti Kurikka, a charismatic Finnish labour leader and invited him to lead an association of miners. The miners acquired land on Malcolm Island, northeast of Vancouver Island, and set out there in boats.

At first, 150 people settled there, braving severe conditions to create a new future as a utopian community named Sointula. The settlers, who called themselves the People of Kaleva - Kalevan Kansa, and elected as their leader Matti Kurikka, who instilled faith in their opportunities, even though the land was almost untillable. But they had jointly decided to achieve their ideal of a new kind of society, of which they could only dream in the mines.

Within a few years, the extremely difficult conditions, a fire that destroyed the colony’s dormitory and bad luck with finances undermined Kurikka’s position as leader. His ideas on gender equality spread outside the community and were thought to advocate the sharing of wives.

Finally, unsuccessful bridge-building ventures on the mainland wrecked trust in Kurikka’s leadership. Sointula remained in the hands of Kurikka’s former friend, A. B. Mäkelä, when Kurikka was forced to leave the island. There are still some 200 descendants of the Finns on the island, of whom approximately 40 speak Finnish.

Next Finn Slough British Columbia Canada

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