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The Meaning of the Delaware Tercentenary Celebration to Finnish Americans

John Saari

In the last session of Congress a resolution was passed authorizing and instructing the President of the United States to extend an invitation to the Government of Finland and individuals - the same as to the Government of Sweden and individuals - "to unite with the Government and people of the United States in a fitting and appropriate observance of the three-hundreth anniversary of the first permanent settlement of Swedish and Finnish colonists in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey." Pursuant to this resolution, the President has extended an invitation to Finland, as he has done in the case of Sweden.

The meaning of this resolution and the celebration to us Finnish Americans is significant: The resolution is an official recognition of the historical fact "that the Finns were one of four nations that helped to settle the Original Thirteen States of the Union, the other three being the English, the Dutch, and the Swedes." The celebration next June of the three-hundredth anniversary of the Swedish and Finnish settlement affords us Finnish Americans a fitting and appropriate opportunity to "impress the American people with the fact" that the Finnish people are not merely of recent immigration but that their blood has coursed in the veins of the American people since the earliest day of American history.

The disclosure and recognition of our early antecedents is important and clarifying not alone to Americans as a whole, but also to the present day Finnish Americans, especially to those of us who have lived here since childhood, and even to those who are of the second and third generation.

Our ancestral and historical background in Finland to most of us is vogue, and we have not been aware of our early traditions here; we have been estranged from our forefathers in Finland, and our proximate family roots in the American soil are still on the surface - in other words, we have lacked, so to speak, the sence of historical continuity and ancestral anchorage. This sense of lack of tradition and shallow rootage has made us feel that there is a hiatus, a gap, in our historical sequence; that we do not belong to Finland, nor are we yet really of the soil and soul of this land. We are, of course, Americans, in heart and spirit; but we have lacked that assured homy feeling, the sense of belonging, which for instance an Englishman has. No matter how recently an Englishman has arrived, he feels and boasts that this is his country; that his people have originally settled and developed this land, and, hence, by reason of kinship, he is an American and not a foreigner.

We have often met these boastful and patriotic spirits, who have insinuated that we are, of course, foreigners. These invidious imputations have often been depressing, especially to the youth, who are more sensitive. Yet, there was nothing we could say. We have known that the English had colonized most of this country; that their descendants had helped to found this Republic and develop this great land. We have not

had had any part in the colonization of this country, nor that their descendants had helped to found this Republic, and, except the more recent comers, have helped to develop this nation.

But the historical evidence, as recently revealed, fundamentally changes our position in American history. This fact has been recognized by our government, and it has declared by legal action that the Finns, the people of our nationality, are one of the original colonizers of this country, and that their descendants have participated in the founding of this Republic and in the development of this land since the earliest days of American history.

We know now that the blood of our people has flowed in the veins of the American people since the dawn of the country's civilization; that the roots of the Finnish people penetrate to the deepest strata of the American soil and, therefore, our anchorage is secure; and that our historical background in America is unbroken, running back as far as the early colonial period. We can now read and study the history of our country with the same exultation, the same spirit and feeling of pride of belonging as any other people; for we know that the history of this country is, in part, the history of our own people, and that we are no more foreigners than any of the other people that make up this great nation. This is the meaning of the Delaware Tercentenary Celebration to Finnish Americans.

This celebration, indeed, is the most auspicious moment in the annals of Finnish Americans. Let us, every man, women, and child wheth show by our conduct and active interest that we appreciate this great honor, and that we are worthy of those pioneer kinsmen of ours who three-hundred years ago risked their lives and fortunes to make for us this extraordinary event possible. Just think! The Government of the United States, the governments of the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, have designated the occasion of this anniversary not only a national but also an international holiday, by inviting Finland, our mother country, and Sweden, our nearest of kin, to participate with us in the celebration. Surely, we present day Finnish Americans, the direct beneficiaries of this unusual honor and occasion, will make our participation befitting and commensurate with the honor and benefits we receive.

Published in 1938.

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