2. Jokijarvi

Nina's ancestral home, Jokijarvi, Finland

After publication of my book Family Album, I assumed the project was complete, and my relationship with Nina was over. However, Nina had additional plans for our collaboration. There was more to learn about interconnection. Consequently, a new project, One Thing Leads to Another (working title) was conceived. The project is active, but progress has been delayed due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. The general project objective is to expand on the Family Album narrative by connecting three related communities: Jokijarvi, Finland; Ishpeming, Michigan, and Frederick, South Dakota. The locations are related via the migration of Nina Weiste’s parents from Finland to the USA.


In 1880, Saul Weiste (Waisanen) migrated from Jokijarvi, Finland to Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The following year he married Kaisa Maria Herne-Ahoe, who also migrated (separately) from Finland to Ishpeming in 1880. They operated a restaurant in Ishpeming for two-years and then traveled west to establish a homestead near Frederick, South Dakota. In 1898, the Weiste family moved again, but only a few miles this time to Ludden, North Dakota to farm fertile soil along the James (Jim) River. In Ludden, Saul Weiste became a successful farmer who owned much land and property. Kaisa and Saul had ten children. The youngest child was Nina. In 1917 when she was sixteen years old, Nina left home and traveled twenty-two miles to begin teacher’s training at the State Normal and Industrial School in Ellendale, North Dakota. In Ellendale, Nina created the photographs I would discover in a Denver antiques mall, and subsequently publish in a book celebrating her memories one-hundred years after she had experienced them.


During Summer 2019, after teaching a photography class in Sweden and Finland, I spent two-days and two nights in Jokijarvi, which is the village where Nina’s ancestral family lived in the North Ostrobothnia region of Finland. Surprisingly, when I arrived in Jokijarvi, I experienced the same affirmational sense of, coming home that accompanied my arrival in the Dakotas. During a short but productive stay in Jokijarvi, I established a professional relationship with Aini Vaaraniemi, a local historian. After presenting a book that listed Finnish settlers in Frederick, South Dakota, she identified the location of Nina’s Jokijarvi ancestral home, which I immediately went to photograph. Aini is now my project associate in Jokijarvi, Finland.


At the end of summer 2019, I made a reconnaissance trip to Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Nina’s parents met after migrating from Finland in 1880. Coincidently, Ishpeming was the first place I lived in the United States. During fall, 1974, I was based in Ishpeming working as a mineral’s prospector for a Canadian mining company. Such a significant personal connection further validates my project objectives. During my recent visit, I established a professional relationship with Hilary Virtanen, Associate Professor of Nordic and Finnish Studies at Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan. Hilary is now my project associate in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As part of the same reconnaissance trip, I visited, already familiar, Frederick, South Dakota, which has a substantial Finnish ancestral population, and as previously mentioned, was where Nina’s parents established a homestead in 1882. 



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