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Kristina Raattamaa and Descendants

Karen Oja

Far up in Lapland, with its long harsh winters and midnight summer sun, lived the Sami for mony centuries. Pushed up into one of the most undesirable habitats, they survived. Mony herded reindeer, many others fished. Near bodies of water, fishing villages began to set up. One such, on the Muonio River bordering Finland and Sweden became Karesuando, in Swedish Lapland.

Some of the f irst habitants of Karesuando come f rom Ala-Kyrö in Kittilä, Finland (which is now Raattamaa). Erik Johansson and Katarina Johansdotter Raattamaa left Ala-Kyrö for Swedish-Lapland in the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century. There, they began a long line of Raattamaas.

Their granddaughter, born in 1858 was Kristina Raattamaa, daughter of Isak Erikson and Anna Greta Persdatter Jatko Raattamaa. She grew up thirty miles south of Karesuando. Kristina was the second child of eight. She and two sisters, Brita Katerina and Josefina, immigrated to the United States. I do not know why they came or if they all came together. In the 1870's many people immigrated to North America from the northern European countries. As for Kristina, maybe she felt she was a burden to the family during a time when they were not so well off.

Maybe she had personal reasons for leaving Karesuando, or maybe she just felt that better opportunities awaited her in America.

Thoughh it's not clear what Kristina did, or where she first went when she come to the new land, she ended up at Portage Entry, in the Copper Country. She married Simeon Kalliainen, also an immigrant from Lapland. His family had moved from Salla, Finland to Vadsø, (Vesisaari) Norway, and from there Simeon come to the U.S. at 21 years.

Kristina and Simeon must have been able to adjust well to their life at Portage Entry. Many other Finnish or ethnically Sami people lived there, and they were able to make a livelihood as they had in the Old Country. They fished the waters there for many years. They had eight children, one of who was my great-grandmother, Lempi Kalliainen, born on January 19,1900.

When Lempi grew up she worked a while in Chicago. She then married Arvid Hendrickson, a Finnish-American also with Sami heritage. He was a second generation Finn. They settled and farmed in Kingston, Minnesota. The Finnish influence was still strong in their home. The family spoke mostly Finnish at home, though neither of the parents had even set sight on Finland. The children did not learn English until beginning school.

My grandfather, Daniel was one of their eight children. He married Shirley Smith. They stayed and farmed in Kingston, and had twelve children. Their daughter, Elaine Hendrickson, my mother married Richard Oja, my father, from the Copper Country. My mother moved back to the Copper Country the place of her, and my, ancestors.

Today, Finnish is no longer spoken at home, except for little, common words such as poika, tyttö, puuroa, pulla, etc. We still have sauna company, and f riends come over for coffee. Our church is the same as the one established in Lapland many years ago. Though many Sami/Finnish traditions and customs are not practiced anymore in our home, we are still Finnish-Americans, with Sami blood.

© Karen Oja

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