East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, June 03, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 5A, Image 5

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Saturday, June 3, 2017
East Oregonian
Page 5A
Founding the Finn District
live in a several square miles-sized
neighborhood north and east of Pendleton
which is referred to by locals, particularly
“old-timers,” as the Finn District.
This unofficial title will not be found
in any atlas or guidebook, but has been in
vernacular use for more than a century.
Its origins are quite simple. In the 1870s
and 1880s when this part of the country
was being homesteaded
following the general
subjugation of the native
peoples (I am not qualified
nor inclined to comment
at length on that episode
in American history), a
number of first-generation
immigrants arrived in this
area from Finland.
Although some came
here directly from the Old
Country, most of these
travelers had made a stop in
or near Calumet, Michigan,
where they principally
found employment in that
region’s copper mines before moving west.
Incidentally, Calumet’s most famous former
resident was not a Finn farmer but rather a
football player at Notre Dame named George
Gipp — forever immortalized by Ronald
Reagan’s portrayal in the 1940 film “Knute
Rockne, All-American.”
The first Finn to arrive and stake a
homestead claim in what is now the Finn
district was Elias Peltopera in 1876. He sent
word back east of the fertile soils he found
in Eastern Oregon and by 1877 and 1878,
many of his fellow Finlanders followed his
example and trekked to Chicago to board a
train for San Francisco and thence a steamer
ship to Portland. There was no Oregon Trail
oxen-pulled wagons for these folks — they
enjoyed modern conveyance and likely
arrived at their destination within a month of
leaving the Upper Pennisula.
The Homestead Act of 1862 allotted
every settler who “proved up” (lived on
and improved the place for five years) on
his homestead claim 160 acres of free land.
Eventually, a wife could claim 160 additional
acres and, in some cases, another 160 acres
could be had by planting
trees under the Timber
Culture Act of 1873.
In the latter part of the
nineteenth century in our
area, these acreage figures
were sufficient, with hard
work and some luck, to
support a family. Please
remember, however, that
these homesteaders had
an entirely different view
of what was necessary
to survive than we do.
Everyone had a garden,
chickens and a milk cow. No
one had air conditioning or
indoor plumbing.
Even I have come to appreciate certain
aspects of modernity; I don’t mind a privy
out back but I’ve become addicted to my
nightly hot shower.
Speaking of water, one of the early
challenges facing the Finn homesteaders
was securing a supply of water for every
farmstead. Relying on their mining
experience, the Finns used drills and
dynamite to tap into aquifers just below the
surface of their farmlands. Our neighborhood
is blessed with adequate water; my modern
domestic well is approximately 150 feet deep
and yields better than 40 gallons a minute,
which is plenty for daughter Annie’s yearly
garden patch.
In the 1870s
and 1880s,
a number of
arrived in this
area from
How to collect art,
not pretentiousness
he term “art collector” often conjures
up the vision of a pretentious name-
dropper at a museum gala. Photos
from Architectural Digest come to mind.
But many art collections come together in
modest settings and reflect deeply personal
connections to travels, special events or
local artists. Pendleton provides plenty of
opportunities to encounter art and fine craft
that can form the core of a meaningful art
collection that won’t break the bank.
Christina van der Kamp and Will
Perkinson’s North Hill home provides
a lesson in how to start an original art
collection and how to integrate the work
into a busy household. Van der Kamp grew
up in a home filled with original artworks,
some as large as eight feet across, and her
parents taught their kids to appreciate the
creative work of others.
Perkinson, a local attorney and municipal
judge, remembers a couple pieces his
grandfather brought back from southeast
Asia that spurred his interest in art. When
the couple settled in Pendleton in 2005 they
sought out the city’s cultural organizations
— attending galleries, music performances
and special events. They looked for
hangouts that had a vibe they liked. The
Pendleton Farmers Market and the Great
Pacific Wine & Coffee Co. drew them in
right away.
Before long, they started meeting artists
and encountering artwork that spoke to
them. The first piece of local art they
purchased was a note card featuring a song
sparrow painted by Hiroko Cannon. It’s
framed and still hangs in their master bath.
“We started out really small,” said van
der Kamp. “I picked up posters from gigs
and events. I would just ask Peter Walters
for a band poster after an event and he was
happy to give me one.” Walters designs
posters for musicians performing at Great
Pacific and other venues. Van der Kamp
also cited posters from Pendleton Farmers
Market and the Helix Rodeo as free or
low-cost art acquisitions.
“Having fun things like that in our home
makes me feel connected to the creative
energy of the community,” she said.
Some of the more substantial works
in the family’s collection were the result
of high bids at fundraisers hosted by
local nonprofits. Donations from artists
often form the backbone of silent and live
auctions at these events and artists like
James Lavadour, Shari Dallas, Lorie Baxter,
Hiroko Cannon and Jenny Morgan have
helped organizations raise thousands of
dollars over the years.
“It’s really a win-win situation when you
can support an organization like the Oregon
East Symphony or Pendleton Farmers
Market and get a piece of art you love in the
process,” noted Perkinson.
The couple also owns several original
prints created at Crow’s Shadow Institute
of the Arts. The organization provides
opportunities for collectors looking to make
a larger investment in a work by nationally
known artists like James Lavadour or the
late Rick Bartow, start more modestly with
notable regional artists like Frank Janzen or
Whitney Minthorn, or pick up affordable
student work. Perkinson and van der Kamp
attend Crow’s Shadow’s Monothon events,
which invite emerging and established
artists from across the Northwest to make
prints that the organization then makes
available for sale for less than $200.
Group exhibits like the annual Open
Regional Exhibit at the Pendleton Center
for the Arts or the Student Art Show at Blue
Photo by Roberta Lavadour
William ‘Tater’ Perkinson running past
artworks by Shari Dallas, Bonnie Grif-
fith, a Monothon print and an antique
work on paper.
Tips for starting or
building an art collection
▪ If you notice a poster in a storefront
is past the event date, ask the store
owner if you can have it.
▪ Keep an eye on the websites of
your favorite nonprofits for fundraising
event dates, and find out if they allow
for a “sneak peek” at auction lists.
▪ Watch the Facebook pages of
local estate sale businesses. Many,
like Vintage Court Antiques, will post
images of items before the sale opens.
▪ Don’t forget to browse the card
racks when you’re at shops, art fairs and
outdoor markets.
▪ If a piece that speaks to you is
beyond your budget, ask about making
payments. Most galleries will allow for
interest-free layaways.
Mountain Community College are another
avenue for finding affordable art, sometimes
providing an opportunity to get in on the
ground floor of an emerging artist’s career.
Of the 173 artworks submitted to this year’s
Open Regional at the Arts Center, which
runs through June 23, many have price tags
under $100.
Unexpected gems can also be found
at the area’s estate sales and antique
stores. Works by beloved local artists
like Betty Feves and Alice Fossatti show
up on occasion, and by looking beyond
a tattered frame or water-stained mat
board, an original silk screen or vintage oil
painting might find new life with a fresh
When asked if they keep the art in their
home well out of reach of their children,
ages five and three, both parents chuckle.
“We want them to respect it, but also to
know that art is something you live with
and enjoy,” said van der Kamp. “Getting in
touch with what moves you and what you
think is beautiful is important for people all
ages. But, really, they’re more interested in
making their own art right now. They take a
lot of pride in the art display wall we created
after the fridge got overloaded.”
The main advice the couple has for
would-be collectors: Buy what you love.
Roberta Lavadour is executive director
of the Pendleton Center for the Arts.
The Finn District denizens were quick
to establish two of the three important
institutions in any community.
For their spiritual needs a church was
built in 1884, which still stands — sans
plumbing or electricity to this day. Multiple
schools have existed in the area and the
last country Finn School, which ceased
operations in the late 1930s, has for
decades served as a farm repair shop on my
cousin’s place. As to the concern regarding
imbibement, the homesteaders were almost
universally Finnish Apostolic in their
religious beliefs and therefore officially
However, Helix has always had at
least one tavern, just in case anyone lost
their balance while aboard a Weber or a
Studebaker. Through hard work, frugality
and abundant rainfall (our neighborhood
average precipitation is about 14-15 inches)
the Finns became well-established agrarians
and built permanent homes to replace
their homestead shacks and constructed
substantial barns (many of which still
stand) to house grain, livestock, feed and
Though many of the Finns kept their
original monikers from their homeland,
some changed difficult spellings or altered
their names entirely. I live on the former
Elmer Hendrickson farm —their name
was once Keskitalo. My son is buying the
Ben Hendricksen farmstead — they were
formerly known as the Kotajarvi clan.
I was recently mowing around the graves
at the Greasewood Cemetery north of the
Finn Church and taking in the spectacle
of the million dollar view of the Blue
Mountains to the east and the surrounding
abundant harvest-in-the making punctuated
by a locust grove here and a barn there.
I marveled at the longevity of many
M att W ood
of those now planted forever in the New
Country. Johana Johnson (Janislampi) lived
to 101; Alvin Christopher was 99; Sakris
Hendrickson farmed and preached at the
church and almost made 90 — 83 years ago!
(He died the year Dizzy Dean and the Gas
House Gang Cardinals beat the Tigers.) I’m
not sure I’ll match their longevity, but I am
certain that I will stay in the Finn District for
as long as I have remaining.
Matt Wood is his son’s hired man and his
daughter’s biggest fan. He lives on a farm
near Helix, where he collects antiques and
Fighting to preserve local
input on land management
regon has a long history of
suspension could mean the review
pioneering innovative ways to
of the Cascade-Siskiyou National
resolve pressing public land
Monument could go forward without
management issues.
RAC input.
Our state was built by Americans
We expressed our concern to
who relied on the land for their
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke,
livelihood, and it has been protected
and urged him to allow RACs to
and preserved by generations of
continue their regular meetings. As a
Oregonians who want to ensure we
former congressman from Montana,
can all enjoy our state’s wild places
he knows the importance of local
and public lands while putting
input and collaboration on public
people to work.
land management issues — a point
Among the tools that Oregonians
he stressed during his confirmation
have used to balance these interests
RACs were formed to generate
are resource advisory councils, or
that local input and collaboration,
RACs. Under the U.S. Department
and there are thousands of
of the Interior, RACs help agencies
examples of RACs across the
and stakeholders navigate projects
country contributing to successful
that can affect the health of the
projects that improve the quality
environment and the strength of
of our public lands management.
the local economy. Public land
their progress hurts
management issues can be very
Merkley Postponing
public land and forest management
contentious, particularly in the West,
goals; to jobs and local economies;
and RACs help to work through
and to public confidence in the
difficult issues and to get meaningful
federal government.
local input. Balancing these interests is
It is critical that local voices, including
challenging. But with RACs, projects are
RACs, have the opportunity to provide input
more likely to succeed.
and take part in the process at all times —
However, we recently heard from
not just when those local voices align with
members of Oregon RACs that their
the administration or a large special interest.
meetings were postponed until September,
pending a review by the Interior Department. Recreation, land use planning, grazing, and
other land management issues take all of
Our offices did not receive notice of
us working together — as generations of
the postponements, and RACs got little
Oregonians did before us — to be successful.
explanation for the action.
We encourage Oregonians to be heard, and
Suspension of RAC meetings could hold
join us in urging Secretary Zinke to allow
up planning of innovative local projects,
RACs to continue their regular meetings
such as the “rails to trails” bike trail
and advance the important work Congress
proposed along the Deschutes River. There,
directed them to do.
the RAC is needed to help resolve issues
among boaters, rafters, and cyclists.
Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both
And — with the timing of the
Democrats, represent Oregon in the U.S.
administration’s decision to reconsider the
designation of 21 national monuments — the Senate.
What’s it like to live in the West?
High Country News
Here and there when I am traveling people ask What’s it like to live in the West?
And they always ask it with that capital W on West, you can really and truly hear it,
And this just happened in Illinois, in the seething earthy redolent middle of nowhere,
A young man asked it, and you know how sometimes way too many answers crowd
Into your mouth at the same instant so you really are technically speechless for once?
So we stood there, the curious student and the gaping older guy, me wanting to emit
Something eloquent about mountains being testy Mountains and not old mossy hills,
Or the clarity and power of wild water, or salmon and elk and falcons and wolverine,
Or maybe quote my boy Wallace Stegner on how the West is the geography of hope,
Or say that people here are riveted by new ways of living and are bored by classness,
Or quote my boy David Duncan about how the American West is in the final analysis
The place where the Rockies make love to the Pacific Ocean and we all get to watch,
Or say something piercing about aridity being the true story except where I get to live,
Or something politically prescient about Cascadia extending from Northern California
Deep into Alaska and east as far as where huge trees peter out and the sage takes over,
Or for once be a totally honest man and say I don’t have the slightest idea whatsoever
About the nature of the West, there being just as many Wests as there are Westerners,
But then something did pop out, without me thinking about it, just like Ronald Reagan,
Who for all his ranching and horses and seeming Westernness was a guy from Illinois,
And I have been thinking about what I said ever since, pondering the thing like a koan.
There’s a day in spring, I said to the student, when cottonwood trees let go all at once,
And the air everywhere you turn is filled with cottonwood snow. It’s cooler than cool.
That’s what it’s like to live in the West. And the student, to his eternal credit, grinned.
I think he got it. It’s hard to explain why it’s so cool but somehow it’s just everything.
It only happens when the sky is so blue you want to just stand there and laugh all day.
Brian Doyle wrote this for High Country News in 2007. The Oregon writer and teacher
authored many books, essays, nonfiction, and “proems.” He died this week at the age of 60.