How similar were Finnish and Lenape slash-and-burn agriculture?

How similar were Finnish and Lenape slash-and-burn agriculture?

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Slash-and-burn agriculture is a technique where farmers cut down woodland and burn the debris to form farmland. This farmland is usually used for a few years until it loses its fertility, then the farmers move on to new land.

Bernard Bailyn (in The Barbarous Years) posits that in the 1600s, both the Finns and the Lenapes practiced nearly the same kind of slash-and-burn agriculture.

How similar were they? Apart from one small line in Bailyn's book, I haven't been able to determine what similarities/differences there were between Finnish and Lenape farming techniques.

Maybe some of this would be more fitting as a comment, but I'm too new to make those, so I'll write more in-depth for an actual answer.

First off, the climate. Finland is nowadays mostly Köppen type Dfc (Subarctic), with the southern/southwestern coastal areas being Dfb (Warm-summer humid continental). Slash-and-burn may have been practiced throughout Finland in prehistoric/early medieval times, but it seems likely it would've been supplanted by more modern agricultural methods fairly early in said coastal areas, both due to a more favourable climate and due to more contact & trade with other peoples, as well as higher population densities. The Lenape lived in the coastal and near-coastal areas of modern-day Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The climate there now ranges from humid subtropical climates (Cwa) to hot- or warm-summer humid continental (Dfa or Dfb respectively). So there's certainly some overlap.

Continuing for a bit longer with the climate subtopic, the 1600s were also part of the so-called Little Ice Age, during which temperatures were 2-3° C (3-5° F) lower than the long-term average. This wasn't a global event, but did affect most of the Northern Hemisphere, including Finland and at least the NE coast of North America. A colder and more unpredictable climate could have caused an increased in the popularity of older, lower-yield but perhaps more reliable (at least in poor soils) farming methods.

Moving on to the type of forest: both have at least some amount of mixed woodlands, with the US coast perhaps leaning more towards deciduous forests and non-coastal Finland towards coniferous trees in mature forests, but keep in mind that long-term use slash-and-burn agriculture will cause the proportion of deciduous trees to increase since especially birch, willow, aspen and alder all colonize clearings such as clear-cuts and former slash-and-burn fields quicker than conifers do.

So there's some similarity, but not complete parity, in terms of climate and possibly in terms of which kind of forests were used for slash-and-burn. Regarding the Finnish techniques, there were 3 main styles. The original one was to use deciduous, or deciduous-heavy mixed forest, and fell the trees a year before they were to be burned. The main crop was rye (for bread), sometimes barley (for beer and bread). Another type was to just fell and burn during the same spring, this was used for barley, turnips and flax. The third and newest style was adopted from Finnic peoples in Northern Russia due to being the only style suitable for nearly pure conifer forests. This is maybe the one dominating the public image on slash-and-burn in Finland: it involves burning a coniferous forest, and pretty much only rye would be used on these fields, which would also be more or less depleted of nutrients in only one year. An adaptation of this would be to burn the same field a second time the year after, because the thicker trees wouldn't burn completely on the first time, and this allowed the harvesting of two crops from the same field. Other variations, particularly in the crops planted, existed as well, but I'm not sure if these were much in use anymore in early modern times; for example, rye, barley and turnips could be planted in the same field, so that first the barley would be harvested in late summer, then the turnips in the fall, and the rye the next year.

Regarding the timelines, I didn't notice any good info on how much each method was used and when, but even the third, newest method mentioned above was definitely known prior to the resettling of Finns from central and eastern Finland to central Sweden in the 16th century, and thus it was also known to the Finnish settlers in New Sweden. Also, as a sidenote, potatoes didn't become common in Finland until the 1700s, so even though they probably were also planted in slash-and-burn fields then, they're not relevant to this question.

I wasn't able to find quite as many details on Lenape farming techniques other than that they used slash-and-burn agriculture to grow the common North American "Three Sisters" combination of corn/maize, winter squash, and beans. While to some extent this may be similar due to planting several crops in the same field, at least to my modern eyes there are more differences due to the heavier emphasis on squash & beans instead root vegetables and grains. Simultaneous planting of multiple crop plants in the same field isn't a technique shared only by Finnish & Lenape traditions, either, it's actually common across most cultures that practice slash-and-burn agriculture.

Which brings me to my conclusion: Based on this admittedly fairly cursory and casual research, I wouldn't say the similarities are that striking. Sure, there are similarities, but many are already explained by the fact that they're simply good practices in slash-and-burn in general and thus have been "invented" many times over all across the world and throughout history. Some more similarities stem from somewhat similar climate and forest types (at least when compared to tropical jungles and the like).

It's unfortunate that Bailyn doesn't clarify at all what he meant by that one-line comment, which leads me to think that perhaps it was just intended to draw similarities between the early Finnish settlers to show that they had more in common than the Lenape had with e.g. English or Dutch settlers. The earliest Finnish settlers came to New Sweden along the Delaware River starting in the 1640s, where the Swedes tended to stick closer to more "civilized" or urban areas, but the Finns were fine with settling in the wilder forests and were in closer contact with the local natives. The Swedes were in conflict with the English colony of Maryland, where New Sweden apparently leveraged their better relations with the native peoples to gain them as allies, and New Sweden was later conquered by the Dutch. I've heard/read of this narrative of Finnish settlers getting along better with natives due to similar cultural practices, e.g. log cabins (there are claims these were introduced to North America by Finnish settlers), slash-and-burn agriculture, "respecting the land/nature", hunting more sustainably, etc. before, both for the New Sweden colony in the Delaware river area, but also sometimes for later settlers in the 1800s.

Forest Finns

Forest Finns (Finnish: Metsäsuomalaiset, Norwegian bokmål: Skogfinner, Norwegian nynorsk: Skogfinnar, Swedish: Skogsfinnar) were Finnish migrants from Savonia and Northern Tavastia in Finland who settled in forest areas of Sweden proper and Norway during the late 16th and early-to-mid-17th centuries, and traditionally pursued slash-and-burn agriculture, a method used for turning forests into farmlands. By the late 18th century, the Forest Finns had become largely assimilated into the Swedish and Norwegian cultures, and their language, a variety of Savonian Finnish (Värmland Savonian dialect), is today extinct, although it survived among a tiny minority until the 20th century.


Historically, slash-and-burn cultivation has been practised throughout much of the world. Fire was already used by hunter-gatherers before the invention of agriculture, and still is in present times. Clearings created by the fire were made for many reasons, such as to provide new growth for game animals and to promote certain kinds of edible plants.

During the Neolithic Revolution, groups of hunter-gatherers domesticated various plants and animals, permitting them to settle down and practice agriculture, which provided more nutrition per hectare than hunting and gathering. Some groups could easily plant their crops in open fields along river valleys, but others had forests covering their land. Thus, since Neolithic times, slash-and-burn agriculture has been widely used to clear land to make it suitable for crops and livestock. [10]

Large groups wandering in the woodlands was once a common form of society in European prehistory. The extended family burned and cultivated their swidden plots, sowed one or more crops, and then proceeded on to the next plot. [11]

Slash-and-burn fields are typically used and owned by a family until the soil is exhausted. At this point the ownership rights are abandoned, the family clears a new field, and trees and shrubs are permitted to grow on the former field. After a few decades, another family or clan may then use the land and claim usufructuary rights. In such a system there is typically no market in farmland, so land is not bought or sold on the open market and land rights are traditional. [ citation needed ]

In slash-and-burn agriculture, forests are typically cut months before a dry season. The "slash" is permitted to dry and then burned in the following dry season. The resulting ash fertilizes the soil [12] [13] and the burned field is then planted at the beginning of the next rainy season with crops such as rice, maize, cassava, or other staples. This work was once done using simple tools such as machetes, axes, hoes and shovels.

This system of agriculture provides millions of people with food and income. It has been ecologically sustainable for thousands of years. Because the leached soil in many tropical regions, such as the Amazon, are nutritionally extremely poor, slash-and-burn is one of the only types of agriculture which can be practised in these areas. Slash-and-burn farmers typically plant a variety of crops, instead of a monoculture, and contribute to a higher biodiversity due to creating mosaic habitats. The general ecosystem is not harmed in traditional slash-and-burn, aside from a small temporary patch. Slash and burn agriculture may be thought of as a form of agroforestry. [1]

This technique is usually most not suitable to produce cash crops. A huge amount of land, or a low density of people, is required for slash-and-burn. When slash-and-burn is practised in the same area too often, because the human population density has increased to an unsustainable level, the forest will eventually be destroyed. [1]

South Asia Edit

Tribal groups in the northeastern Indian states of Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland and the Bangladeshi districts of Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban and Sylhet refer to slash-and-burn agriculture as jhum or jhoom cultivation. The system involves clearing land, by fire or clear-felling, for economically-important crops such as upland rice, vegetables or fruits. After a few cycles, the land's fertility declines and a new area is chosen. Jhum cultivation is most often practised on the slopes of thickly-forested hills. Cultivators cut the treetops to allow sunlight to reach the land, burning the trees and grasses for fresh soil. Although it is believed that this helps fertilize the land, it can leave it vulnerable to erosion. Holes are made for the seeds of crops [14] such as sticky rice, maize, eggplant and cucumber are planted. After considering jhum ' s effects, the government of Mizoram has introduced a policy to end the method in the state. [15]

Americas Edit

Some American civilizations, like the Maya, sometimes used this agricultural technique.

Paleolithic History

Presently there are ongoing excavations in Ostrobothnia, in what is called the Wolf Cave in Kristiinankaupunki, or Kristinestad in Swedish. If confirmed, this site will be the oldest archeological site in Finland, and is likely to be the only Neanderthal, or pre-glacial, site found so far in the Nordic countries, around 130,000 years old.

The land area now known as Finland was first inhabited just after the Ice Age, from around 8500 BCE. In this section we will give a brief outline of the main periods of history of Finland from then onwards.

Suomusjärvi culture (8300-5000 BCE)

The first traces of homo sapiens in Finland are post-glacial and date from around 8,500 BCE. The period following their arrival, which saw an increase in population, is known as the Suomusjärvi culture. These people were most likely seasonal hunter-gatherers. At the beginning of the 20th century, under a layer of peat, a Neolithic, or Stone Age, site was discovered in Antrea on the Karelian Isthmus, less than 200km north of St. Petersburg. Among the items found was the net of Antrea, which is one of the oldest fishing nets ever excavated, as well as wood and flint implements, polished instruments of shale, remains of nettle fibres, 16 fishing floats of piney bark, 31 stone plummets, and a long bone dagger. Elsewhere in South Karelia around 20 dwelling sites were discovered, although to date few of these archaeological findings of Finnish history&lsquos excavations have been studied. Among the artefacts found at these dwellings are stone spearheads shaped like willow leaves, chisels and axes, which indicate that the inhabitants hunted and fished to survive.

The Corded Ware culture (3200/2900-2300/1800 BCE)

The Corded Ware, or the Battle Axe, culture began in the late Neolithic (Stone Age), and flourished throughout the Copper Age culminating in the early Bronze Age. This period in History of Finland is also known as the Single Grave culture due to the shared practice of single burial under barrows, where the deceased was usually accompanied by a battle axe, amber beads and pottery vessels. It was during this period that the use of metal was introduced to Northern Europe. The Corded Ware culture was a mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer culture.

The Iron Age

The earliest discoveries of Finnish ironwork and imported iron blades have been dated to around 500 BCE. There are indications that the exchange of goods over long distances began in coastal areas of Finland began around 50 AD, when local inhabitants began to trade their wares, most likely furs, for weapons and ornaments with Scandinavians and Balts, as well as with folk along the more traditional trade routes to the East. There existed in Finland at this time a chiefly elite, as can be seen from the many burial grounds that were richly furnished in some parts of the country.

It was towards the end of the Iron Age, and during the early Medieval Age, that there was a spreading of hillforts across the southern regions of Finland. Linguists believe that it was likely that during the Iron Age the three main dialectal groups of Finnish speakers emerged. These are the Finns, Karelians and Tavastians. Excavations in the Åland Islands have shown that the archaeological culture of the islands had a decidedly more Swedish character than the mainland, which would suggest Scandanavian settlement.

The Middle & Viking Ages

Finland was one of the very last places in Europe to have Christianity introduced, where the first influences appear, based on etymological evidence, to have come from the East and the Orthodox tradition. The first signs of Christianity are found in burial sites dated to the 11th century, when objects with obvious Christian connections were found, including crucifixes and swords with Latin engravings such as &lsquoIn nomine Domini&rsquo and &lsquoDominus Meus&rsquo. As would become a noticeable theme throughout the rest of Finland&rsquos history, the country found itself positioned between two cultures destined to clash &ndash the Russian christians who followed the Greek Catholic (or Orthodox) faith and Sweden which was loyal to the Catholic Church of Rome. There had already been considerable contact between Finland and Sweden before Christianity the Finns were in contact with the Vikings both through trade and the Vikings invariable habit of plundering. The evidence of this trade is plentiful in archaeological digs, and includes silver coins from the Arabian peninsula as well as weapons and jewelry. However, there is no evidence of any Viking settlements on the mainland, although archaeological evidence proves that they settled on the Åland Islands.

Finland and the Finns were mostly unknown to Europeans during the Viking Age, with the exception of Swedes and Gotlanders, who would have known that Finns and Saami were different races. During this time the vast majority of Finns lived in the south of the country, in coastal settlements and along the shores of the numerous inland lakes. Eastern and Northern Finland were home to more nomadic peoples who continued the hunting and fishing traditions of the first settlers. These people may have been the ancestors of the Saami, or of some branch of widespread Finno-Ugrians.

Agriculture also developed in Finland during the Viking Age, with the cultivation of cereals such as wheat, rye, barley and oats beginning then. Near Turku, in Eura, where most of the richest Viking Age remains have been found, evidence of permanent fields has been discovered, but mainly the practice was to slash and burn. Archaeologists also were able to discover that Finns of this time of Finnish History kept the usual domestic animals &ndash cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and horses. In some graves dogs have been buried with their owners, but no trace of any cat has been found so far. From the graves it is also clear that the bear played a signal role in the culture of that time bears claws and teeth are found in the cremation cemetaries, and bears&rsquo teeth and pendants fashioned in bronze have also been found on the clothes of buried women, and on chains worn by them.

The Kalmar Union

Between 1397 and 1523 Scandanavia was united politically for the only time in its history under the crown of Denmark, as the Kalmar Union. The Union was the brainchild of Queen Margaret of Denmark, founded to give Denmark, Sweden and Norway a united front against German encroachment. Queen Margaret had gained the Norwegian crown through marriage, and had ousted an unpopular German king in Sweden by forming a strategic partnership with the Swedish nobility who had revolted.

The Kalmar Union was ever a tentative union, conflict and disagreement between the Danish monarchy and the Swedish nobility (who controlled Finland at the time) was rife. This period was one of frequent warfare between Denmark and Sweden, and within Sweden itself there was a continual struggle for power by competing nobility attempting to take hold of the Swedish crown. As a result of this struggle Finland was to suffer heavily, mostly from taxation by the Swedish nobility, but also because of wars fought on its soil and from a persistent disruption to its trade. Sweden diverted resources from the country&rsquos eastern borders which left Finland open to attacks from the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, which was expanding and would eventually become the Russian Empire. In 1478 Grand Duke Ivan III had taken control of Novgorod, which brought the might of Muscovy up to the Finnish border. In 1493, Denmark and Muscovy became allies with the aim of engaging Sweden in war on two fronts, and two years later Finland was invaded by Muscovite forces. In 1497 Sweden and Muscovy made peace, and the borders of 1323 were reinstated.

By 1523 Sweden had become a seperate state thanks to a revolt against the Kalmar Union led by Gustav Vasa, a Swedish nobleman, who became King Gustav I and founded a dynasty that would rule Sweden and Finland for over 100 years.

The Club / Cudgel War (1596)

In 1596 the peasants of Finland revolted against Swedish exploitation. They had become tired of the hardships they had been forced to endure the Russo-Swedish War of 1590-1595, and further enraged when they discovered that they would have to continue supplying the Swedish army with food, lodging and transport even after the Treaty of Tyavzino had been signed. To make matters worse, there were allegations that the Swedish military were abusing the taxation system by taking more than they were entitled to by force.

The war that ensued was named after the fact that the peasants couldn&rsquot afford Zweihander swords, lances, muskets or horses, and instead armed themselves with blunt instruments such as cudgels and maces. They succeeded in capturing Nokia manor and won a number of skirmishes against small cavalry forces, but were then defeated by Cas Fleming on January 1st and 2nd of 1597. The leader of the peasant revolt, Jaako Ilkka, was captured towards the end of January and executed. A second wave of insurgents were defeated on February 24th at Ilmajoki in the Battle of Santavuori. In total, some 3,000 people died during the insurgency, mostly peasants from the regions of Ostrobothnia, Northern Tavastia and Savo.

The Great Northern War and The Greater Wrath (1700-1721)

The Great Northern War began in 1700 when the Northen Alliance, a coalition comprised of Russia, Denmark-Norway, Poland-Lithuania, and Saxony launched an attack on Sweden for control of the Baltic Sea.

Peter the Great&rsquos galley navy successfully captured a small detachment of the Swedish navy in 1714 near the Hanko peninsula, which was the first Russian naval victory of the war. Between 1713 and 1714 the Russian army occupied most of Finland, having already taken the city of Vyborg in 1710. Finnish troops made their last stands in the battles of Pälkäne in 1713 and Napue in early 1714, in Isokyrö, Ostrobothnia. The military occupation of Finland by Russia that followed lasted until the treaty of Nystad, signed in 1721, and is known in Finland as the Greater Wrath.

Following the Russian victory at Isokyrö, Mikhail Golitsyn bacame governor of Finland, and the Finns began to wage a partisan war against the occupiers. The Russian military retaliated by forcing Finnish peasants to pay large contributions to them, and plundering began to become widespread, especially in the region of Ostrobothnia and those communities located near to the major roads, with many churches being looted. Isokyrö was burned to the ground, and the Russians instigated a scorched earth defence zone where an area several hundred kilometres wide was burned to hinder any Swedish counteroffensive.

During the Greater Wrath some 5,000 Finns were killed and around twice that number taken as slaves, the vast majority of which would never return. Thousands of Finns, mostly the ruling elite, bureaucrats and officials fled to the relative safety of Sweden, leaving the poorest peasants to flee into hiding in the forests in order to escape the occupiers and their press-gangs. Between 1714 and 1717 atrocities were at their worst as the Swedish Count Gustaf Otto Douglas was in charge of the occupation, having defected to the Russians during the war. It is also worth remembering that Finland had had to endure the plague just as the Great Northern War began, with Helsinki alone seeing two-thirds of its population die in 1700 alone. In 1721 the Treaty of Nystad and the Stockholm treaties were signed this saw Russia become the new major power in the region, and an emerging political force in Europe.

The Russo-Swedish War (The Hats War) (1741-1743)

During the Swedish &lsquoAge of Liberty&rsquo (1719-1772) a political faction known as the Hats became active. The Hats ruled Sweden from 1738 to 1765, and their foreign policy would lead the country into two costly and disastrous wars, the first being the Russo-Swedish War, known as the Hats War in Finland, from 1741-1743. This war would lead to the Lesser Wrath, or the re-occupation of Finland by Russia.

Sweden declared war on Russia on August 8th, 1741, after deploying some 8,000 troops, both Swedish and Finnish, along the border of Russia near the fortress town of Lappeenranta. The aim was to threaten Saint Petersburg and aid a coup d&rsquoétat that had been engineered by French and Swedish diplomats. By December the coup had been successful, but the new Tsarina, Elizaveta Petrovna, was taking advice from Aleksey Bestuzhev, her pro-Austrian chancellor, and reneged on her promises. Instead she chose to continue the war with Sweden.

Key to her decision was her certain knowledge that there had been no threat to Saint Petersburg since September. The Tsarina&rsquos army was commanded by Field-Marshal Peter Lacy, an Irishman from Limerick who became one of the most successful Imperial commanders before the rise of Rumyantsev and Suvorov. In September he had advanced on Lappeenranta with 20,000 troops and inflicted a major defeat on Lewenhaupt, the Swedish commander. Forced into retreat, Lewenhaupt was helpless to prevent Lacy capture Porvoo and Savonlinna. He finally encircled the entire Swedish army near Helsinki, forcing their surrender and effectively bringing the hostilities to an end.

With the Swedish army having surrendered, the Russian army entered Turku (then the capital of Finland), and Rumyantsev and Nolken negotiated a peace settlement. Under its terms the Tsarina would evacuate her army from Finland and Adolf Frederick, who was the uncle of her own heir apparent, would be named as heir to the Swedish throne. Even as the negotiations were ongoing, the Russian Baltic Fleet destroyed a Swedish flotilla off the coast of Korpo Island, and Field-Marshal Lacy set off from Kronstadt to invade Sweden. He received word that the Treaty of Åbo had been signed just as his fleet bore down on Umeå. Under the treaty, Sweden ceded a strip of Finland that included Hamina and Lappeenranta which was added to those territories Russia had already gained under the Treaty of Nystad in 1721.

War of Finland 1808-1809

The War of Finland was to be the last war Sweden would fight, and brought to an end its influence in Europe.

Ironically, the War of Finland had very little to do with any problems that Sweden had with Russia when it first began, but was more to do with the European struggle for political power, especially the struggle between Britain and its historical enemy, France, now led by the Emperor Napoleon.

Napoleon ruled Europe and prevented the British from entering European ports. However, the British still had access to Swedish ports and continued to trade with continental Europe via Sweden. Russia had previously fought a war with the French Empire which had left it considerably weakened, and Napoleon was able to persuade Russia to become an ally, which made most of continental Europe powerless. Napoleon used his influence to persuade Tsar Alexander to force Sweden to close its ports to the British, and tried to get the Swedish king to join Napoleon&rsquos Continental System. King Gustav IV was wary of how this would effect Sweden&rsquos maritime commerce, on which it relied heavily, and instead chose to enter into negotiations with Britain who had traditionally been an ally of Sweden. They prepared to launch a joint attack on Denmark, with the King seeking to take the Dane&rsquos Norwegian possessions.

However, Sweden was overly optimistic about its chances of surviving a Russian attack. Tsar Alexander took Sweden&rsquos refusal to close its ports to the British as an excuse to invade Finland. On February 21st 1808, almost 2 months before war was declared, 24,000 Russian troops crossed into Finland and captured Hämeenlinna. By the end of the following month the Russians had taken Kuopio, Tampere, Jakobstad, Svartholm (Loviisa), Helsinki, and Hanko and had landed in Gotland and the Åland Islands.

Despite this, Sweden didn&rsquot fold and instead King Gustav appointed a new commander, Carl Johan Adlercreutz who immediately launched a counter-attack which halted the Russian advance. In Finland the upper classes sided with the Russians, but the peasantry fought a guerilla war in many areas of the country, and in Hamina were led by the capable Colonel Sandel. On April 18th at Siikajöki Russian forces were defeated and two weeks later suffered the same at Revolax. A Swedish flotilla forced the garrison on the Åland Islands to surrender, having been aided by locals, and having already driven the Russians from Gotland. 14,000 troops had been sent by Britain to Gotenburg, but left for Spain instead after a dispute with King Gustav. They left behind 36 ships for Sweden to use, 16 of which were battleships.

The Russians were driven from Central Finland by August, and forced to stretch a line from Mikkeli to Pori, via Tampere. However, their troops were soon reinforced, and once again they had a numerical advantage: 55,000 to Sweden&rsquos 36,000. Sweden won the Battle of Jutas in September, but lost battles at Oravais, Salmi and Kuortane. At the same time, Russia was effectively dealing with the partisan movements in the east, which made things considerably easier for them in the south. As Sweden found itself trying to protect its borders with Denmark and Norway, it was forced to remove troops from Finland, and by the winter of 1808 Russia had taken all of the country.

In early spring of 1809 Russian troops crossed the frozen Gulf of Bothnia and invaded Sweden, landing just 70km from Stockholm on March 19th, and entering Umeå just 5 days later. By the 25th a third force had encircled Tornio and forced its surrender. King Gustav was dethroned and replaced by his uncle who was proclaimed King Charles III. The new king negotiated a truce with the Russian commander in chief, Boris Knorring. However, Tsar Alexander arrived in Turku on March 31st, and upon hearing of the truce replaced Knorring with Barclay de Tolly, and revoked the truce. Shuvalov&rsquos forces, which had captured Tornio, reached Umeå in May, and the Russians engaged the Swedish forces at Savar and Ratan. Although these battles were inconclusive, Sweden entered into negotiations for peace in August, and on September 17th, 1809, signed the Treaty of Fredrikshamn.

Sweden ceded all of Finland and part of Lapland east of the Torne river under the treaty, closed its ports to British ships, and joined Napoleon&rsquos European Continental System. Russia attached areas previously ceded by Sweden and formed the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Gustavian constitution of 1772 was retained, with some minor alterations, and Finns were promised that they could retain their Lutheran religion. The Tsar elevated Finland to the status of a nation among nations, and they were relieved of military duty. For the first time in its history, Finland was able to develop its own government, and set up the new centre of administration in Helsinki, around Senate Square.

The Finnish Declaration of Independence (1917)

&lsquoThe people of Finland have by this step taken their fate in their own hands a step both justified and demanded by present conditions. The people of Finland feel deeply that they cannot fulfil their national and international duty without complete sovereignty. The century-old desire for freedom awaits fulfilment now Finland&rsquos people step forward as a free nation among the other nations in the world.&rsquo

On the December 6th 1917, the Finnish Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Parliament of Finland. It declared Finland an independent and sovereign nation-state rather than an autonomous Russian Grand Duchy.

Hopes for indendence in Finland had been ignited by the February Revolution of 1917 in Russia, when Grand Duke Nicholas II abdicated. His abdication on March 15th was interpreted in Helsinki to signal the end of the legal basis for the personal union between Finland and Russia. The October Revolution heightened those hopes, and on November 5th, the Finnish Parliament declared itself to be &lsquothe possessor of supreme State power&rsquo in Finland, basing the declaration on article 38 in the old Instrument of Government of 1772, which had been enacted by the Estates following the bloodless coup of King Gustav III of Sweden.

10 days later, on November 15th, the Bolsheviks declared a general right of self-determination, which included the right to secede, &lsquofor the Peoples of Russia&rsquo. This prompted the Finnish Parliament to issue a declaration by which it assumed, pro tempore, all powers of the Sovereign in Finland. However, the old Instrument of Government was no longer deemed suitable. Finland&rsquos leading circles had long considered that monarchism and hereditary nobility were antiquated concepts, and instead advocated a republican constitution.

Parliament had appointed a new government in November, the Senate of Finland, and it returned on the 4th of December with a proposal for a new republican Instrument of Government. The Declaration of Independence was technically given the form of a preamble of the proposition, with the intention that it be agreed by the Parliament. On December 18th, the new Soviet government issued a Decree which recognised Finland&rsquos independence, and this was approved by the highest Soviet executive body, the VtsIK (All-Russian Central Executive Committee) on December 22nd. Finland was now recognised as an independent nation.

The Finnish Civil War (Jan 27 &ndash May 15, 1918)

Of all the conflicts Finns have been involved in throughout history, the Finnish Civil War remains the most contentious and controversial even today. It was fought by the forces of the Social Democrats, led by the People&rsquos Deputation of Finland, commonly known as the &lsquoReds&rsquo, and the forces of the non-socialist, conservative-led Senate, commonly called the &lsquoWhites&rsquo, led by former tsarist general, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. Support for Reds came from the Russian SFSR, while the German Empire provided military assistance to the Whites.

Following the February and October revolutions, the Russian Empire collapsed and there was a similar breakdown in Finnish society wherein the Social Democrats and the conservatives competed for control of the Finnish state, with both sides collaborating with corresponding political forces in Russia, further deepening the split in Finnish society. With no accepted police or army forces in Finland to keep order, the opposing sides began to build their own independent armed military groups, the White and Red Guards. By January 1918 fighting had broken out, and begun to spiral, with the White Guard finally overcoming the Social Democrat forces. Control of Finland passed to a German hegemony until December 1918 when Finland emerged as an independent, democratic republic.

By the end of the Civil War, almost 37,000 people had died, less than 10,000 of them in battle. Far more died in political terror campaigns and in the prison camps where there were very high mortality rates. When the Civil War was over the country was in turmoil, its economy destroyed, its political appartus and its people divided. The country was slowly reunited through compromises of moderate political groups on both the left and right.

The Winter War (30 November 1939 &ndash 13 March 1940)

On the 30th of November, 1939, Russia attacked Finland with 21 divisions and some 450,000 soldiers, leading to its expulsion from the League of Nations on December 14th. Finnish forces were heavily outnumbered, Russia had four times as many troops, thirty times more aircraft, and over six thousand tanks to Finland&rsquos thirty two, yet the Finns were incredibly commited and enjoyed excellent morale in the ranks, and managed to resist the invasion with great success for far longer than the Soviets had expected. The purge of the Red Army by Stalin in 1937 had seen almost 50% of army officers executed, and the inexperience of the senior officers was also instrumental in the successful resistance of the Finns.

When the Soviets first invaded, Finland mobilised an army of just 250,000. However, using guerilla tactics and their local knowledge, and aided by extreme winter conditions, these troops proved to be fierce adversaries. By the end of the first month of the Winter War, the Red Army had been humiliated, and Stalin was furious. The Soviet propaganda machine was working hard to explain the Army&rsquos failure to the population, claiming that the Mannerheim Line was stronger than the Maginot Line, and that the U.S. had provided Finland with 1,000 of its best pilots and blaming the terrain and climate. Meanwhile, the Finns were choosing not to engage the Soviets in conventional war where possible, instead relying on their fast moving ski-troops to attack field kitchens, and the small-unit &lsquomotti&rsquo tactic where enemy columns were split into smaller pockets, and then dealt with. Initially, Soviet tanks proved to be a problem for the Finns, who were poorly equipped to deal with them, but the use of an incendiary device first used in the Spanish Civil War proved decisive. These incendiaries became known as &lsquomolotov cocktails&rsquo, sarcastically named for the Soviet People&rsquos Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, who had claimed in radio broadcasts that the Soviet Union was not dropping bombs on Finland, but was actually delivering food! The Finns began to refer to the bombs as Molotov bread baskets, and when the use of the incendiary devices began these were &lsquodrinks to go with the bread&rsquo.

Finland signed the Moscow Peace Treaty in March 12th 1940, ceding about 9% of its pre-war territory and 20% of its industrial capacity to the Soviet Union. The entire of the Karelian Isthmus, as well as a large amount of land north of Lake Ladoga, was ceded, including Finland&rsquos second largest city of Viipuri. 12% of Finland&rsquos population, around 422,000 Karelians were evacuated and lost their homes. Soviet losses on the front were large, almost 127,000 were dead or missing compared with Finnish losses of around 25,000. This brought into question the ability of the Red Army to fight efficiently, contributing to Germany&rsquos decision to launch Operation Barbarossa.

The Continuation War (25 June 1941 &ndash 19 September 1944)

The second of the two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during the second World War is known in Finland as the Continuation War, which began with exchanges of hostilities on the day the German invasion of the Soviet Union was launched. On June 25th 1941, the Soviets launched an air offensive, prompting the Finns to launch operations on the Karelian Isthmus and Lagoda Karelia. By September, Finland had captured East Karelia, and had undone its post-Winter War cessations.

For the following two and a half years there was a standstill as Soviet and Finnish forces dug themselves in. With the Germans advancing on Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Finland refused to participate actively in the siege of that city, and also to cut the Murmansk railway. The Soviet air force conducted bombing campaigns on Helsinki. Meanwhile, in December 1941, the United Kingdom declared war on Finland, shortly followed by its Dominions, a rare case of one democracy declaring war on another. Although the United States did not fight or declare war on Finland, it sent substantial matériel to the Soviet Union for use in the war effort against Germany and its allies. Germany provided Finland with critical material support and military cooperation.

In the summer of 1944, the Soviets launched a strategic offensive, driving the Finns from most of the territories they had managed to occupy, before reaching another impasse which led to the Moscow Armistice in September. The Continuation War was formly concluded by the ratification of the Paris peace treaty of 1947, under which Finland had to cede a number of territories, including much of Karelia, and to pay the Soviets reparations of $300 million &ndash half of the annual GDP in 1939. Finland did, however, retain its independence. Over 63,000 Finns had died in the war, with almost 160,000 wounded and injured. Soviet losses were far heavier, with approximately 200,000 dead, 385,000 wounded, and a further 190,000 hospitalised due to sickness. In addition, some 64,000 Soviet troops had been captured.

The Lapland War (September 1944 to April 1945)

Once Finland had signed the Moscow Armistice, it was obliged to force German troops from its territories. These hostilities were fought in Finland&rsquos northernmost Lapland Province. During the first few weeks the withdrawal of the Germans was coordinated with the advance of Finnish troops, with the Finns firing on evacuated trenches. However, the Soviets realised the deception, and demanded the Finns engage the Germans in immediate heavy action.
The German forces retreated under General Rendulic, devastating large areas of Lapland with scorched earth tactics, resulting in around 45% of dwellings in the area being destroyed. The city of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the towns of Savukoski and Enontekiö. By April of 1945 the last German troops had been expelled.

Cold War to present

Finland&rsquos infrastructure and economy had suffered heavy damage because of the wars fought during WWII, and the first order of business for the country was to repair the former, and breathe new life into the latter. As its citizens and politicians began a return to normal life, Finland&rsquos army and navy were busy from the autumn of 1944 clearing the seas and land of mines. The areas worst affected by mines were the Gulf of Finland where mine clearance operations lasted until 1950, Karelia, and Lapland. Many civilian and military casualities were caused by these mines, the worst affected area being Lapland.

The aftermath of the war wasn&rsquot just limited to clearing land and sea of explosives. From July 29th to October 15th, 1946, the Paris Peace Conference negotiated the Paris Peace Treaties, which were signed on February 10th, 1947. On one side stood the Allies, principally the USA, USSR, UK, France and Canada, making demands on Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland. Somewhat surreally, Finland was classified as &lsquoa belligerent and fascist power&rsquo, and had heavy war reparations imposed on it &ndash $300,000,000 to be paid to the USSR, with the soviets also taking the Porkkala area near Helsinki as a military base. Although these reparations were initially considered to be crippling, in fact they provided Finland as a nation to once again show the characteristic &lsquoSisu&rsquo which in many ways defines the Finns. A determined effort was made to pay the reparations, and they were paid off many years in advance, in 1952. By 1956 Porkkala had been returned to Finnish control. Indeed, it could be argued that Finland&rsquos efforts to pay the reparations was one of the most significant factors that drove the country to creating a formidable manufacturing base in the post war years.

By 1950 50% of the Finnish workforce were employed in agriculture, with a third living in urban areas. As more new jobs in manufacturing, trade and services appeared more people began to migrate towards the towns. 1947 saw the peak of baby-boom births, the average number per woman peaking at 3.5, and declining to 1.5 by 1973. Unfortunately, as these baby-boomers entered the workplace jobs were not generated quickly enough and hundreds of thousands of Finns were forced to emigrate to their more industrialised neighbour, Sweden, with emigration peaking in 1969 and 1970.

Finland&rsquos position during the Cold War was unique among the countries which had a border with the USSR. Unlike others, it remained independent, and although for economic reasons it was influenced by the Soviet Union, Finland retained its democratic structures and market economy. Under pressure from Moscow, Finland signed the YYA Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1948, which was called the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. Theoretically the treaty guaranteed mutual assistance, but in general terms the soviets respected Finland&rsquos desire to remain uninvolved in the Cold War, as can be seen by Finland&rsquos purchases of arms which were balanced between East and West until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This treaty was abrogated by Finland since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In 1952 the Nordic Council was formed by Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. Finland was free to join in 1955, following the death of Stalin and a thaw in their relationship with the USSR. The Nordic Council had established a passport union, which allowed their citizens to cross borders without passports and afterwards to apply for jobs and claim social security benefits in the other countries. However, by the 1980s Finland&rsquos wages and standard of living were comparable with Sweden, and the reasonably rapid rise of their economy resulted in the setting up of another Nordic-style welfare state. The same year that Finland joined the Nordic Union it also became a member of the United Nations, although it had already been associated with a number of specialised organisations with the UN.

In 1961 Finland became an associate member of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and a full member in 1986. Finland agreed a trade agreement with the EEC as well as another with the Soviet Bloc. In 1972 and 1973 Finland hosted the first Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and on the 1st of August 1975 the Helsinki Final Act was signed. The CSCE was considered to be a means of reducing the tensions of the Cold War in Europe, and was thought to be a personal triumph for President Urho Kekkonen. The CSCE eventually led to the creation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in the 1990s.

In 1991 Finland faced its greatest post-war challenge when it fell into a depression, due to a combination of local and global factors. The catalyst was the collapse of the Soviet Union which saw a market that had accounted for 20% of exports vanish almost over night, but there were also sharp cycles in the OECD area, and exports in general were down. However, external forces would merely have resulted in recession, had the country not previously put in place bad policies, the most detrimental of which was the poorly designed financial and banking deregulation of the 1980s. The growth in the &rsquo80s had been based on borrowing, and had caused a bubble: when the bubble burst GDP declined by 15% and unemployment rose from near full employment to 20%. The government struggled to rein in public expenditure and public debt rose to almost 60% of GDP. Around 7-8% of GDP was needed to bail out the banks, and force consolidation in the sector. The Finnish currency, the Markka, was floated, and considerably devalued. However, by 1993 the depression had bottomed out and the country began to slowly recover.

Finland in the 21st Century

So, how is Finland today? One way of evaluating the country is to see how it is viewed from elsewhere.

The 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (the last ESI published) ranked Finland first out of 146 countries. The ESI was produced by a team of environmental experts from Yale and Columbia Universities in the US. Finland&rsquos excellent ranking was attributed to substantial natural resource endowments, low population density, and successful management of environment and development issues.

In 2009 researchers at the Gallup World Poll attempted to discover the countries where people were happiest, and surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries over a four year period. The resulting data placed Finland in 2nd place, just behind Denmark but ahead of Sweden and Norway.

In 2009 the Legatum Institute, a think-tank based in London, published a report that Finland was the most prosperous nation in the world, not solely in monetary matters but also in the quality of its democracy and governance.

Figures from the United Nations Education Index published in 2009 ranked Finland 2nd in the world, behind Korea. This index is measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio. The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to read and write, while the gross enrollment ration gives an indication of the level of education from kindergarten to postgraduate education.

Finally, in August of 2010, Newsweek published its list of the best countries in the world to live in, averaging the results from five categories measuring national well-being. The categories were education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment. Finland topped the list, ahead of Switzerland and Sweden.


“I sit there as a Bird on a Bow: I look about and do not know where to go let me therefore come down upon the Ground, and make that my own by a good Deed, and I shall then have a Home for ever for if you, my Uncles, or I die, our Brethren the English will say, they have bought it from you, and so wrong my Posterity out of it.” -Teedyuscung (1700–1763) King of the Delawares.

Lenni-Lenape:Traditional Warrior Dance

The Lenape consist of several organized bands of Native Americans whose name for themselves, sometimes spelled Lennape or Lenapi, means “the people.” They are also known as the Lenni Lenape (the “true people”) or as the Delaware Indians. English settlers named the Delaware River for the governor of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and they used the term “Delaware Indians” for the Lenape people living along this river and its tributaries.

At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Lenape lived in the area roughly around and between the Delaware and lower Hudson Rivers, encompassing current areas of the state of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, the north shore of Delaware and much of southeastern New York.

After the arrival of settlers and traders to the 17th-century colony of New Netherlands, the Lenape and other native peoples became extensively involved in the North American fur trade. Their trapping depleted the beaver population in the region, proving disastrous for both the Lenape and the Dutch settlers. The Lenape were further weakened by newly introduced infectious diseases, and by conflict with both Europeans and the traditional Lenape enemies, the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock.

Over the next centuries, they were pushed out of their lands by Iroquoian enemies, treaties and overcrowding by European settlers, and moved west into the Ohio River valley.

In the 1860s, most Lenape remaining in the Eastern United States were sent to the Oklahoma Territory. In the 21st century, most Lenape now reside in the U.S. state of Oklahoma, with some communities living also in Kansas, Wisconsin, Ontario, and in their traditional homelands.

Delaware/Lenape Culture Then

The “tribes” of early America are often misunderstood as being similar to present-day “nations”, but they are perhaps better understood as language groups.

At the time of first European contact, a Lenape individual would likely have identified primarily with his or her immediate family and friends, or village unit then with surrounding and familiar village units next with more distant neighbors who spoke the same dialect and ultimately, but loosely, with all those in the surrounding area who spoke mutually comprehensible languages, including the Mahican.

Among other Algonquian peoples, the Lenape were considered the “grandfathers” from whom all the other Algonquian peoples originated. Consequently, in inter-tribal councils, the Lenape were given respect as one would to elders.

Lenape society was organized into clans determined by matrilineal descent. Children inherited membership in a clan from their mother. On reaching adulthood, a Lenape traditionally married outside the clan, a practice known by ethnographers as, “exogamy”. The practice effectively prevented inbreeding, even among individuals whose kinship was obscure or unknown.

Early Europeans who first wrote about Indians found matrilineal social organization to be unfamiliar and perplexing. Because of this, Europeans often tried to interpret Lenape society through more familiar European arrangements.

As a result, the early records are full of clues about early Lenape society, but were usually written by observers who did not fully understand what they were seeing. For example, a man’s maternal uncle (his mother’s brother), and not his father, was usually considered to be his closest male ancestor, since his father belonged to a different clan. The maternal uncle played a more prominent role in the lives of his sister’s children than did the father. Early European chroniclers did not understand this concept.

Territory was collective, but divided by clan. Land was assigned to a particular clan for hunting, fishing, and cultivation. Individual private ownership of land was unknown, as the land belonged to the clan collectively while they inhabited it. Clans lived in fixed settlements, using the surrounding areas for communal hunting and planting until the land was exhausted. In a common practice known as “agricultural shifting”, the group then moved to found a new settlement within their territories.

The Lenape practiced large-scale agriculture, mostly companion planting (planting of different crops in proximity, coupled with the slash and burn technique, which extended the productive life of planted fields). Their primary crops were varieties of the “Three Sisters” (squash, maize, and climbing beans). They also practiced hunting for small game, birds, and deer, and the harvesting of fish and shellfish, in particular, clams year-round.

Women did most of the field work, processing and cooking of food. The men limited their agricultural labor to clearing the field and breaking the soil. They primarily hunted and fished during the rest of the year.

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. What does Lennape or Lenapi, mean?

2. Where did the the Lenape live at the time of European contact?

3. After the arrival of settlers and traders to the colony of New Netherlands, the Lenape and other native peoples became extensively involved in the North American fur trade. What did this do to the animal population in the area?

4. What else weakened the Lenape tribal members?

5. What events caused the Lenape to move west into the Ohio River valley?

6. In the 1860s, most Lenape remaining in the Eastern United States were sent to which state?

7. Back then, how was the Lenape society organized? What types of food did they eat?

Delaware/Lenape Culture today

Lenni-Lenape Jingle Dress Dance

Lenni Lenape living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have not gained federal recognition, although two tribes in the former area have state recognition. They do not have reservation land or their own systems of government, although many members continue to practice the Lenape culture. There are federally recognized tribes, state recognized tribes, and unrecognized communities in Oklahoma: Delaware Tribe of Indians (Bartlesville) and Delaware Nation (Anadarko) Ohio: Allegheny-Lenape Indian Tribe of Ohio Pennsylvania: Lenapehoking in West Philadelphia Wisconsin: Stockbridge-Munsee Community New Jersey Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians and Ramapough Mountain Indians Ontario, Canada: Munsee-Delaware Nation 1, Moravian of the Thames First Nation, and Delaware of Six Nations.

A Lenape Creation Story

A Lenape came to the house of a Dutch man who lived in Hackensack. The Dutch man was curious about the Indian’s beliefs. He asked the Lenape, “And where did your father come from? And your grandfather and great-grandfather, and so on to the first of your people?”

The Lenape was silent for a little while, and he then took a piece of coal out of the fire and began to write upon the floor. He first drew a circle, on which he made four paws, a head, and a tail.

“This,” he said, “is a tortoise, lying in the water.” He moved his hand around the figure, and continued: “This was all water, and so at first was the earth. Then the tortoise gradually raised its round back up high, the water ran off, and thus the earth became dry.

He then took a little straw and placed it on end in the middle of the figure, and proceeded: “The earth was now dry, and there grew a tree in the middle of the earth. The root of this tree sent forth a sprout, and there grew upon it a man, who was the first male. This man was alone, and would have remained alone, but the tree bent over until its top touched the earth, and there came forth another sprout, on which there grew a woman. From these two were all people produced.

A Lenape Creation Story : “A Lenape Indian Myth,” pp. 10-14.Adapted from The Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679–1680.

Teedyuscung (1700–1763) remembered as King of the Delaware.

The Folklore and Folklife of New Jersey, by David Steven Cohen. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1983.


Over 90 percent of Finnish American immigrants are Lutherans—some more devout than others. Baptized into the church so that their births were recorded, they were also confirmed so that they could marry and be buried—all with official state records.

During the nineteenth century, within the State Church of Finland, four different religious revivals occurred: the Awakenists, the Evangelicals, the Laestadians, and the Prayers movement. These movements operated within the church itself. In addition, socialism—a secular movement with all the fervor of a religion—also developed. During the immigration process, many Finns left the church entirely and participated only in socialist activities. Those who remained religious fell into three separate groups: Laestadians, Lutherans, and free church Protestants.

The Laestadians, who came first, called themselves "Apostolic Lutherans" and began to operate separately in the heady atmosphere of America's free religious environment. However, they could not stay unified and have since divided into five separate church groups. These congregations are led by lay people ordained ministers trained in seminaries are not common to any of the groups.

In 1898 the Finnish National Evangelical Lutheran church was formed as an expression of the Evangelical movement. The Finland Swedes, excluded from these efforts, gradually formed churches that entered the Augustana Lutheran Synod (a Swedish American church group). In recent years, the Suomi Synod became part of an effort to create a unified Lutheran church in the United States. They were part of a merger that created first the Lutheran Church in America in 1963, and then the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1984.

The Suomi Synod maintained the Church of Finland "divine worship" service tradition and continued the practice of a clergy-led church. However, a new sense of power resting in the hands of the congregation developed, and the church evolved into a highly democratic decision-making institution. Although women were not yet granted the right to be ordained, they were given the right to vote in the affairs of the church in 1909. In addition, they were elected to high leadership positions on local, regional, and national boards. Pastors' wives were known to preach sermons and conduct services whenever the pastor was serving another church within his multiple-congregation assignment. The rather democratic National Synod also granted women the right to vote in the affairs of the congregation. This became an issue when the National Synod merged with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which did not allow women to vote.

In addition to Lutherans, Finnish immigrants also organized a variety of free Protestant churches: the Finnish Congregational church (active mainly in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and California), the Finnish Methodist church, the Unitarian church, and the Pentecostal churches.

Identifying popular Finnish last names

The top names in Finland usually end with the “nen” suffix, but there has been a lot of competition between which “nen” names come out on top. Virtanen and Korhonen are essentially the best-known titles in Finland. Think of them as the Finnish Jones, and Smith.

Korhonen is currently the most popular surname across the 5.5 million Finnish population during 2021, with around 22.6 thousand people sharing this name. A slightly lower 22 thousand people claimed the name Virtanen.

These two names are usually followed by titles like Mäkinen, Nieminen, Hämäläinen, and Mäkelä.

While most people in Finland have a very similar surname, it’s not all about the “las” and “nens” in this part of the world. There are also a huge variety of surnames related to things like professions and old Norse stories too.

Here are some common Finnish last names which don’t use “nen.”

1. Aho

Taken from the word of the same spelling in Finland, Aho means a clearing in a forest or a glade. It’s one of the many Finnish last name choices referring to a specific location. This title is a more ornamental one than some of the names we’ve covered so far.

It likely referred to people who were born near a glade, however.

2. Autio

Autio in Finland is a slightly sadder last name, which used to refer to a place abandoned or uninhabited. The term was often given to fields and farms no longer possessed by human beings. In Northern Finland, the name can also mean wide or spacious.

3. Aarnio

Aarnio is common surname that comes from the word “aarniometsä”, meaning a forest untouched by humans. Approximately 70% of Finland is covered in forest, but only less than 5% are in a completely natural state. Half of these untouched forests are under a protected status.

4. Eskola

Eskola is a great example of one of those Finnish last names with the fun “La” finish. This title comes from the name for a farmstead in Finland. Eskola is quite a common moniker because there are a lot of farmlands throughout Finland.

5. Elo

Elo is quite an inspiring Finnish last name. It comes from the Finnish word for grain or harvest, which many locals also link to life itself. Though this term could have some occupational elements to it, it’s often deemed “ornamental.”

6. Halla

Another location-focused last name with a less popular “la” suffix, Halla refers to a fallow field, or frosty locations. Although many experts describe Halla as an ornamental name, adopted by many Fins for a unique sound, it does have a geographical meaning too.

7. Kari

In Finland, the word “Kari” means a small island, sandbar, or stony rapids. Once again, this is an example of one of the many Finnish last names with multiple meanings. While some families use this title ornamentally, others can trace their lineage back to the places described. Kari is also a male first name in Finnish.

8. Karjala

This fun Finnish family name likely describes many families who come from cattle farmer descendants. The name comes from the word “Karja”, which means cattle in Finland. This occupational name was common among people who worked as herdsmen.

9. Koivisto

Taken from the Finnish word “Koivu”, which describes a birch tree in Finland, Koivisto is an ornamental, and toponymic one. Although some people chose this name without any reference to a location, others picked up the title because they lived near a birch tree forest.

10. Kangas

We love this Finnish last name because it sounds so unique and exotic. It’s actually an occupational name, according to many Finnish experts. The term “Kangas” comes from the Finnish language and means “cloth” or “fabric”.

Professionals say the name likely referred to people who were either garment makers or textile merchants.

11. Keto

Another fun example of a topographical or “location-based” Finnish surname, is Keto. This name looks great when matched with the short two-syllable names common in Finland. Keto means “a grassy meadow” or “field”.

The title may have also referred to people who lived at a farmstead.

12. Lahti

Lahti is a word plucked straight from the Finnish language. Similar to many of the title we’ve looked at so far, it means a “cove” or a “bay.” This moniker is common among people with ancestors who lived near a cove or beachy area.

Ancient and Early Medieval History of Finland

For the first time the mention of Finland (Fenni) appeared at Tacitus in his essay Germania (98 year). The author, guided only by stories, describes the inhabitants of this country as primitive savages who know neither weapons, nor horses, nor dwellings, but feed on herbs, dress in animal skins, sleep on the ground. Their only weapons are spears, which they, not knowing the gland, make from bone. Tacitus distinguishes between Finns and Sami (Lappen), a neighboring people who lived on the same territory and apparently had a similar way of life.

At the dawn of our era, a vast region, which began to be called Finland only in the 15th century, was not yet a state or cultural whole. In the first 400 years AD., with the beginning of the development of agriculture, the region could feed only a few tens of thousands of people, as the climate and nature were harsh, and new ways of production came from the early agricultural societies of the Mediterranean slowly and with difficulty.

From V to IX century AD. The population of the coastal areas of the Baltic region has grown rapidly. With the spread of cattle breeding and farming, the stratification of society intensified, and the class of leaders began to stand out.

Up to the 8th century, the settled population was concentrated mainly on the southwestern coast, as well as in the fertile areas along the Kumo River and its lake system in Satakunta and Häme. In other parts of the region, there was a rare nomadic population — the Sami who migrated over large territories and engaged in hunting and fishing.

In the middle of the VIII century, the first significant stage of the settlement of the region and the spread of culture began. This was facilitated by the relative warming of the climate in Northern Europe, along with innovations in the field of agriculture. Residents of the southwestern coast and the Häme region, who practiced in particular slash-and-burn farming, began to gradually settle to the northeast up to the northern shores of Lake Ladoga. The settlement of the southern shores of Ladoga by Slavic tribes began gradually.

Since about 500 years, the Aland Islands are settled by North Germanic tribes. In the Viking Age of 800–1000, the Swedish Vikings began to set up trade outlets and colonial settlements on the southern coast of Finland. From then on, the Swedish element began to be introduced into Finnish society. However, in terms of mutual assimilation in the sense of language and customs, it was difficult to speak at that time due to the lack of a common residence area, since the Swedes settled on the coast, and the Finnish tribes lived in the forests. At the end of the Viking Age between state formations on the Baltic Sea, a competition begins in the colonization of Finnish lands, whose population was in paganism. At the same time, this was the era of Christianization, both in favor of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Essays on the history of Finland from ancient times to the beginning of the 20th century
Brief history of Finland
The history of the Finnish people

Historiallinen Arkisto (“Historical Archive”) // Periodicals of the Finnish Historical Society.


Cultural landscapes result from the application of traditional management practices usually over centuries and are amongst the most valued in Europe. However, their composition is widely threatened by modern agriculture. It is therefore necessary to understand the historical factors involved in their formation, so that appropriate policies can be developed for maintaining their character. The present paper assesses for the first time the importance of slash and burn cultivation in the formation of current landscape patterns in Southern Estonia. Although generally associated with the tropics, this practice commenced in the Baltic region in the Bronze Age and persisted until the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The historical background to the practice is given and a detailed study is then described from Karula National Park in Southern Estonia. Parcels of different land covers were digitized from 51 farm maps for five dates from the 1860–1870's to the present day in order to record the changes. In the mid Nineteenth Century slash and burn parcels covered 35% of the farms lands. Because of the hilly relief 79% of the parcels have returned to forest during the Twentieth Century. The comparable changes are characteristic of other upland areas in Southern Estonia. The management policy in the Park needs to take into account the role of slash and burn in the formation of these areas of forest and their contribution to the modern landscape structure. The contribution to biodiversity of the secondary forests in the former slash and burn areas needs future study.

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

The Lenapes and Susquehannock shifted aspects of their culture to incorporate new materials and tools gained through trade with peoples from Europe. In exchange for animal furs, Dutch and Swedish settlers would trade a variety of textiles, glass beads, guns, metal tools, and other objects that could not be manufactured by Native American groups. The Lenapes and Susquehannock incorporated these new objects into their fashions, hunting routines, and agricultural techniques. This image from a display of Susquehannock artifacts from the State Museum of Pennsylvania shows a variety of the jewelry, metal utensils, decorative pots, and other items that came from trade with Europeans in the seventeenth-century.

Johan Printz

In the mid-1640s, the colony of New Sweden was almost evicted by the Lenapes due to the colonists’ lack of trade goods and the mismanagement of the colony by their governor, Johan Printz. Printz had served the Swedish military before Queen Christina appointed him the third governor of New Sweden. Printz initially led the colony to prosperity by doubling its population, increasing trade with the Lenape, constructing new fortifications with armed men, and shifting the center of the New Sweden colony to Tinicum Island. By 1647, Printz could not keep up with the Dutch competitive expansion in the area and he did not have enough goods to trade the Lenape for furs. War with Denmark prevented Sweden from sending additional people or items to New Sweden for about six years, which led to people deserting the colony for English colonies in Maryland and Virginia. Some colonists who remained in New Sweden were critical of Printz's leadership, and twenty-one people eventually signed a petition accusing him of exceeding his powers as governor. Printz arrested the leader of the petitioners and executed him for attempting to cause a revolt. Members of New Sweden continued to criticize Printz's actions, and he resigned from his governorship in 1653.

Native American Groups along the Delaware in 1639

Dutch cartographer Joan Vinckenboons created this map of the lower Delaware River (at this time labeled the South River in New Netherland) in 1639, displaying the locations of Dutch and Native American settlements. Vinckenboons did not directly survey the land for this map, instead culling his information from hundreds of reports from travelers on trading vessels. On the left side of this map is text (written in Dutch) providing general information about the languages and culture of twelve Native American groups living along the Delaware River. (Enlarge and view in higher resolution via the Library of Congress)

Wampum Belt

This wampum belt, on exhibit at the Philadelphia History Museum, was said to be given to William Penn by the Lenapes at the time of the 1682 treaty. The belt, donated in 1857 to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by a great-grandson of Penn, is made of white wampum with darker accent beads and depicts two figures holding hands, often interpreted as a sign of friendship and peace. Wampum refers to the shell beads used as currency by Native Americans in the eastern United States. The beads are made of clam and whelk shells and were used as memory aids, often given to commemorate important events such as engagements, marriages, or funerals. Wampum could be fashioned into a belt and used to keep an oral history. The belts were also used as currency and—as seems to be the case here—to mark the creation of treaties.

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Native Peoples to 1680

These artifacts found at a Susquehannock site in Pennsylvania show a mixture of tools and adornments, some of which came from trade with European settlers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Native Americans lived in what became southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware for more than 10,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in the early seventeenth century. By emphasizing peace and trade, the Lenapes retained their sovereignty and power through 1680, unlike native peoples in New England and Virginia who suffered disastrous conflicts with the colonists. Before William Penn founded Pennsylvania, the Lenapes and their allies among the Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch settlers created a society based on the ideals of peace, individual freedom, and inclusion of people of different beliefs and backgrounds.

The first Americans settled in the region as glaciers gradually receded in North America at the end of the last ice age. Because of the accumulation of ice, the Atlantic seashore was located more than sixty miles to the east of its present location. As the glaciers melted, the ocean level rose, submerging evidence of early communities along the coast. Archaeological data about the people inhabiting the lower Delaware Valley from this early era through the Woodland Period (c. 1000 B.C. to 1600 A.D.) indicate significant continuity over thousands of years. The Lenapes, like their ancestors, relied upon hunting, fishing, gathering, and—in the later years—small-scale agriculture. They lived in small autonomous towns without palisades, suggesting they kept mostly at peace with their neighbors and more-distant nations.

Isolation of the Lower Delaware Valley

For centuries the natives of the lower Delaware Valley remained isolated from other parts of the Americas, including the peoples of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys who built agricultural civilizations based on the “three sisters”: corn, beans, and squash. These crops complemented one another in cultivation and providing humans a nutritious diet. The geography of Pennsylvania, particularly the north-south orientation of the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, limited interaction of Delaware Valley natives with the Mississippians who built cities, tall burial mounds, and stratified societies in the interior of the continent. Though the Lenapes raised corn, beans, and squash by the time the Europeans came, the natives took advantage of the abundance of game animals, fish, shellfish, berries, wild rice, and other foods rather than engage in large-scale agriculture.

The Lenape people included groups such as the Armewamese, Cohanseys, Mantes, and Sickoneysincks, who built towns along tributaries of the Delaware River and on the Atlantic seacoast near Delaware Bay. They spoke Unami, an Algonquian language similar to the dialects of their allies the Munsees, who controlled the region to the north up into southern New York, and the Nanticokes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Lenapes’ neighbors to the west were the Susquehannocks, an Iroquoian people of the Susquehanna Valley.

The general locations of some Lenape groups that lived along the Delaware River were labeled on this 1639 map of what today is southern New Jersey. Written in Dutch, the map also explains the languages some groups used to communicate. (Library of Congress)

The size of the precontact Delaware Valley population is unknown because European sailors and fishermen brought pathogens even before the Dutch arrived. Colonization of Europeans in North America had a devastating impact on the Lenapes and other natives because they lacked immunity to smallpox, influenza, measles, and other diseases. In 1600 the Lenapes numbered an estimated 7,500 by the 1650s their population decreased to about 4,000, and to about 3,000 by 1670. The Lenapes’ population decline was not as severe in the 1600s as among some other groups whose numbers dropped by ninety percent or more. The Lenapes’ success in avoiding war during most of the seventeenth century contributed to their strength and continued sovereignty over their land.

Lenape Gender Roles

The Lenapes divided work on the basis of gender: Women raised crops, gathered nuts and fruit, built houses, made clothing and furniture, took care of the children, and prepared meals, while men cleared land, hunted, fished, and protected the town from enemies. Native women held an equivalent status with men in their families and society parents extended freedom to their children as well, practicing flexible, affectionate child-rearing.

During the seventeenth century, the Lenapes’ sociopolitical structure appears to have been democratic, egalitarian, and based on matrilineal kinship groups, with descent through the mother’s line. The heads of kinship groups chose the group’s leader, or sachem, who held authority by following the people’s will. With advice, the sachem assigned fields for planting and made decisions on hunting, trade, diplomacy, and war.

In religion, existing evidence suggests that the Lenapes believed the earth and sky formed a spiritual realm of which they were a part, not the masters. Spirits inhabited the natural world and could be found in plants, animals, rocks, or clouds. Natives could obtain a personal relationship with a spirit, or manitou, who would provide help and counsel to the individual throughout his or her life. Lenapes also believed in a Master Spirit or Creator, who was all-powerful and all-knowing, but whose presence was rarely felt.

When Dutch explorers entered the Delaware River about 1615, the Lenapes welcomed their trade. In 1624, they granted permission for a short-lived settlement on Burlington Island and in 1626 allowed construction of Fort Nassau across the river from the future site of Philadelphia. The natives and colonists developed a trade jargon based on Unami that became standard trade language throughout the region.

Keeping Old Ways, Adopting New

The Lenapes retained their autonomy and traditional ways of life while selectively adopting new technology from the Europeans. Native women and men appreciated the convenience of woolen cloth, firearms, and metal tools, incorporating them into their culture but not abandoning their traditional economic cycle of hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture.

The Dutch trade precipitated war between the Lenapes and Susquehannocks from 1626 to 1636 because the Susquehannocks sought to control the Delaware River. They killed many Lenapes and pushed them from the west to east bank, burning towns and crops. The Lenapes fought back, eager to trade for European cloth, guns, and metal goods in exchange for beaver, otter, and other furs. While these local pelts were thinner because of milder mid-Atlantic winters than those the Susquehannocks obtained from central Canada through the continental fur trade, the Lenapes had a successful market with the Dutch. The war ended by about 1636 when a truce, which developed into an alliance, permitted both the Lenapes and Susquehannocks to trade in the region.

In 1631, violence flared when wealthy Dutch investors started a plantation called Swanendael near present-day Lewes, Delaware, at the mouth of Delaware Bay. It seemed to Lenapes that the Dutch were shifting their priorities from trade to plantation agriculture similar to the English colonists in Virginia who murdered natives and expropriated land. The Sickoneysincks, the Lenape group near Cape Henlopen, destroyed Swanendael, killing its thirty-two residents. When Dutch captain David de Vries (1593-1655) arrived in early 1632, he made peace and reestablished trade with the Sickoneysincks.

Over the next half century, Lenapes controlled the lower Delaware Valley, accepting European trade goods in exchange for small parcels of land for forts and farms, but not plantation colonies. With the attack on Swanendael and its memory, the Lenapes restricted European settlement. In 1670, just 850 Europeans lived in the lower Delaware Valley compared with 52,000 in New England, 41,000 in Virginia and Maryland, and 6,700 in New York and eastern New Jersey. With an estimated population of 3,000 in 1670, the Lenapes remained more numerous and powerful than the Europeans.

New Sweden Established

Johan Printz, the third governor of New Sweden, almost lost his colony due to his governing style and the colony’s limited ability to trade gods with the Lenapes.(Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Seven years after Swanendael, in 1638, the Lenapes permitted a small group of Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch colonists to establish New Sweden at the location of current Wilmington, Delaware. Lenapes and Susquehannocks traded with New Sweden and the Dutch mariners who continued to frequent the river. While the Europeans fought each other over trade and land, the Lenapes dominated the region. In the mid-1640s they nearly evicted the Swedes because of their lack of trade goods and the bellicose posturing of their governor Johan Printz (1592-1663). Relations improved by 1654 when Naaman and other sachems concluded a treaty with the new Swedish governor, Johan Risingh (c. 1617-72), in which each side promised to warn the other if they heard of impending attack by another nation. They also pledged to discuss problems such as assaults and murders, stray livestock, and land theft before going to war.

By the 1650s, many of the Armewamese group of Lenapes lived adjacent to the Swedes and Finns in the area that became Philadelphia, a locale the Swedish engineer Peter Lindeström (d. 1691) praised for its beauty, freshwater springs, multitude of fruit trees, and many kinds of animals. Lindeström identified six towns from the Delaware to the falls of the Schuylkill that the Armewamese built to be near the terminus of the Susquehannock trade. The Lenapes also sold corn as a cash crop to New Sweden when its supplies ran short.

After the Dutch conquered New Sweden in 1655, the Lenapes, Swedes, and Finns solidified their alliance to resist heavy-handed Dutch authority. The Lenapes warned the Swedes of the Dutch assault their Susquehannock and Munsee allies attacked Manhattan, forcing Director Peter Stuyvesant (d. 1672) and his troops to withdraw from the Delaware Valley. While the Dutch claimed the region, the Lenapes ruled their country in alliance with the Munsees, Susquehannocks, Swedes, and Finns.

With the English conquest of the Dutch colony in 1664, the alliance of Lenapes, Swedes, and Finns remained firm as together they resisted English efforts, under the Duke of York, to impose their power and expropriate land. In the late 1660s, the Armewamese left their towns where Philadelphia now stands, migrating to join the Mantes and Cohansey communities in New Jersey. Though it is unclear whether settlers forced out the Armewamese or they left voluntarily, their relocation moved the center of Lenape population and power across the river.

In 1675-76, the alliance of Lenapes, Swedes, and Finns helped Lenape country escape the horrors of war similar to Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia and King Philip’s War in New England. Through shared economic goals and common values of peace, individual freedom, and openness to people of different cultures, the Lenapes and their European allies established the ideals of Delaware Valley society before William Penn received his land grant for Pennsylvania in 1681.

Jean R. Soderlund is a Professor of History at Lehigh University and author of Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn.

Copyright 2014, Rutgers University

Related Reading

Dahlgren, Stellan, and Hans Norman. The Rise and Fall of New Sweden: Governor Johan Risingh’s Journal 1654-1655 in Its Historical Context. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1988.

Fur, Gunlög. Colonialism in the Margins: Cultural Encounters in New Sweden and Lapland. Leiden: Brill, 2006.

Grumet, Robert S. The Munsee Indians: A History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009.

Jennings, Francis. “Glory, Death, and Transfiguration: The Susquehannock Indians in the Seventeenth Century.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 112 (February 15, 1968): 15-53.

Kraft, Herbert C. The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage: 10,000 B.C. – A.D. 2000. Lenape Books, 2001.

Lindeström, Peter. Geographia Americae with an Account of the Delaware Indians Based on Surveys and Notes Made in 1654-1656. Translated and edited by Amandus Johnson. Philadelphia: Swedish Colonial Society, 1925.

Richter, Daniel K. “The First Pennsylvanians.” In Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, 3-46. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2002.

Schutt, Amy C. Peoples of the River Valleys: The Odyssey of the Delaware Indians. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Soderlund, Jean R. Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

Stewart, R. Michael. “American Indian Archaeology of the Historic Period in the Delaware Valley.” In Historical Archaeology of the Delaware Valley, 1600-1850, edited by Richard Veit and David Orr, 1-48. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2014.


Papers of Amandus Johnson, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia.

Watch the video: The Lenni Lenape, The Pure, Real People