The Fellowship

The Knights of Kaleva

Otavan Maja

The Ladies of Kaleva

Valvotar Tupa

Our Finnish Heritage


Great Bear Lodge

The Fellowship of the Kaleva Knighthood

The men of Great Bear Lodge (Otavan Maja #7) are members of the Kaleva Knighthood. The Kaleva Knighthood is an international fraternal organization consisting of the Knights of Kaleva (Kalevan Ritarit) and Ladies of Kaleva (Kalevan Naiset) with local lodges in nine states in the U.S. and a province in Canada. The organization was founded as a society more than one hundred years ago by John Stone, a Finnish immigrant, for the purpose of assisting other Finnish immigrants contending with the economic and social pressures of their day and for affirming their Finnish heritage.

Traditionally, membership in the Knights of Kaleva has required Finnish ancestry of its members or to be a spouse of a member of the Ladies of Kaleva. Being a fraternal organization that stresses loyalty, benevolence, and respect for one's cultural heritage, the Knights of Kaleva requires full initiation into the Lodge for their brothers as do the Ladies of Kaleva for their sisters. The ceremonial rituals of initiation and formal lodge activities are designed not only to reinforce the ideals of loyalty, generosity, and lofty moral and spiritual values, but also to reflect the roots of their uniquely Finnish cultural heritage found in the Legends of the Kalevala.

The Knights of Kaleva

The Foundation of the Fellowship

For many Finnish-Americans, especially those who have a connection to their cultural roots in the Kaleva Knighthood, two men of extraordinary imagination, energy and perseverance loom large in the formation of their cultural and historical identity. Elias Lönnrot and John Stone saw in the ancient stories of the ordinary Finnish people the soul of the Finnish character. Both of them saw a way to raise up the hopes and create a national identity for the people among whom they lived – ordinary, hard working people who were often marginalized or even oppressed by the dominant social order.

Elias Lönnrot, born in Sammatti, Finland in 1802, was a country doctor who took an interest in the folklore and legends passed down by oral tradition among the Finnish speaking people in Finland and Karelia, lands that had long been dominated by the Kingdom of Sweden or the Russian Empire. Lönnrot was born near the end of Swedish rule in Finland. In 1809, after centuries of conflict between Sweden and Russia, Finland came under the rule of the Czar as a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire where it remained until independence in 1917. For centuries the Finnish speaking people found their identity in the land, the language, and the songs and stories about adventurous, larger than life characters such as Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemmikainen. The land of Kaleva from which they came is a place lost in the mists of time, but the epic poem that arose out of it stories and was compiled and published by Lönnrot in its final form in 1849 as the Kalevala had much to do with the growing sense of nationhood and unique Finnish culture that developed during the last half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Knighthood

John Stone was born in Oulu, Finland, in 1865, to Johan and Susan Oxelstein. Kaarlo Stahlberg, who later became first president of Finland, and Jean Sibelius, perhaps Finland's greatest musical composer and an inspiration to Finnish national identity, were also born in 1865. During his student years as Johan Oxelstén, Stone, like his contemporaries, experienced the rising tide of Finnish national consciousness and cultural pride, an influence that would later reveal itself in his efforts to inspire and unite the Finnish immigrant community. In 1887, after completing his university schooling, he traveled to the United States and first found work at the newly developing iron ore mining operations near Tower, Minnesota. He married, and with his wife Sofia, moved to Belt, Montana, a copper mining town, to join his younger brother and seek business opportunities there. It was during this time that he took the same last name as his brother – Stone.

Just as economic and social hardships in Finland drove many Finns to seek a better life in North America, the "wild west" culture of the last days of the American frontier in the 1880's and '90's and economic exploitation of mine workers took its toll on the immigrants who settled there. In May 1898, after more than four years of struggling with what he saw happening and how he might bring the Finnish immigrant community to develop a positive awareness of their cultural heritage, a need for mutual support, and a framework for maintaining the highest moral and ethical standards of behavior, Stone, and friends with whom he had been sharing his ideas, created the fraternal society of the Knights of Kaleva or Kalevan Ritarit.

The Knights of Kaleva, like most fraternal lodges in America derive their lodge system of organization and democratic form of representative self-government, their practice of doing business in confidential meetings, and their ritualism and social characteristics from benevolent secret societies modeled on the order established by the Freemasons and organizations such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Ancient Order of Druids, and the Ancient Order of Foresters. These orders generally provide for the payment of death benefits and other benefits as well to their members and families. During the latter half of the 19th century the number and size of fraternal orders in the United States greatly increased. Among the large orders, in addition to the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows, are the Order of the Eastern Star, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias, and the Knights of Columbus.

After John Stone and Matti Raunio, John Jääskeläinen and Daniel Kuona met in a Finnish church in Belt, Montana, to work out the ideas and goals for the organization, the first official meeting was held on May 14, 1898. In July the organization selected its name, "Knights of Kaleva," and the local lodge would be known as a "maja." That same month the first lodge (maja) was voted to be named, Pellervoinen Lodge (Maja #1), and the symbols of the seal were chosen. Like many fraternal organizations, the Knights of Kaleva met opposition from political and special interest groups who feared or misunderstood the kind of influence a closed fraternity might have on the Finnish immigrant community. But the strength of the social, cultural and spiritual values provided by the Knighthood and the determination of the founders in making it a strong organization prevailed. Over the next few months the constitution of the Knighthood was approved and the first efforts to establish lodges elsewhere were taken. Eventually, sixty-one lodges in sixteen states, two Canadian provinces and three countries would be established.

Elias Lönnrot

Creator of the Kalevala
Vaka vanha Väinämöinen
Old and Steadfast Väinämöinen
Eternal sage of Kalevala
John Stone
Founder of the Knights of Kaleva
Seal of the Knights of Kaleva

Otavan Maja

Fellowship of the Founders

Just two years after the Knights of Kaleva was created and the first lodge was established, preliminary work was going on to establish the first lodge in Minnesota. John Kenttä from Butte, Montana and Jacob Mäki from Belt, Montana arrived in Sparta and Eveleth respectively and recruited twelve men from the area to create a new lodge. In March 1901 the lodge was given the name, "Otava Lodge (Maja #7)" and degree work was begun. The lodge had its beginnings in Sparta, a small mining village with a predominately Finnish population. But almost from the start it had a connection with Eveleth and the communities and townships in between. On May 2, 1903 the lodge finally received its charter in Sparta and relocated to Eveleth shortly after. Although meetings were in Eveleth, it was considered temporary, and plans to form another lodge in Eveleth then return to Sparta were always in progress. In 1908 Sampsa Lodge (Maja #26) began operations in Eveleth and received its charter.

Otava Lodge was moved back to Sparta and the members sought to share a location and meeting facilities with the Temperance Society in Sparta. Temperance Societies were formed in many communities where there were Finnish immigrant workers. The societies were organized to provide a wholesome alternative to the saloons, gambling and prostitution that many young immigrants without families or community responsibilities often found attractive. The Temperance Societies, as with the Knights of Kaleva Lodges, provided a place to go, moral and financial support to those in need, and social gatherings and entertainment in an ethnic community to which they could relate. Although nothing came of the plan to share facilities they would have another opportunity in 1910 when Otava Lodge along with the rest of the village of Sparta was forced to move after the location was bought by Oliver Mining Company. They moved to Gilbert, about two miles to the northwest and started having their meetings at Jävenkukka Temperance Hall. Over the next decade Otava Lodge experienced steady growth and increased activity. In 1917 the Lodge seceded from the Grand Lodge national organization in a dispute over conduct of the Grand Lodge officers. In 1921 the lodge rejoined the Grand Lodge after applying for reinstatement.

In 1922 the members of the lodge discussed the possibility of merging with Sampsa Lodge in Eveleth and Seppo Lodge in Virginia two Knights of Kaleva lodges that were in a state of decline in membership and activities. That same year Otava Lodge moved back to Eveleth and merged with Sampsa Lodge. In 1923 Otava Lodge purchased an island on Long Lake about five miles south of Eveleth from lodge members who owned it. The Island, named Kaleva Island (Kalevasaari) by the owners, became the focal point of activities for the lodge and its members during the summers. During the winters the lodge meetings continued to take place at rented meeting rooms in Eveleth. As is Finnish custom the first building on the island was the sauna. The lodge building was completed in 1930. By this time there were many children of lodge members at an age when youth courses in their Finnish cultural heritage and the Kalevala would be appropriate. The second generation was rising up. In 1933 a Kaleva Youth organization and summer camp were established at Kaleva Island. Otava Lodge, like many lodges in the Kaleva Knighthood, considered education for its members and their families a very important tenet in the brotherhood. Many college scholarships were provided over the decades and support given to Salolampi, the Finnish language camp that is part of the Concordia College, Moorhead, Language Village program.

In 1930 Otava Maja and Valvotar Tupa, the Ladies of Kaleva Eveleth lodge, were hosts to the Knights of Kaleva Grand Lodge Convention. The Grand Lodge (Yli Maja) is the governing body for the Kaleva Knighthood. The Grand Lodge convenes biennially to elect Grand Lodge officers, entertain resolutions from local lodges, create by-laws, arbitrate disputes within and between lodges, grant new lodge charters, take responsibility for disbanded lodges and their property, maintain archives, provide inter-lodge communications and public information, maintain finances for members' benefits and scholarships, convene a joint Knights and Ladies meeting at the convention, and as part of the gathering of the Knights, initiate members into the fourth, fifth, and sixth degrees of Knighthood. Jacob Hill, a member of Otava Lodge, was elected the Grand First Brother (Yli Ensimäinen Vertaisten joukossa), or the presiding officer of the Grand Lodge, at the 1930 Grand Lodge Convention. Otava Lodge was also host to Grand Lodge Conventions in 1906, 1956, and co-host with the other Minnesota lodges in 2000, when David Hill, Jacob Hill's grandson, completed his term as Grand First Brother. The first Grand Lodge Convention was held in Red Lodge, Montana in 1902 and Hans Line, from Otava Lodge was elected Sage (Tietäjä) of the Grand Lodge. Over the years, Otava Lodge has had as Grand Lodge officers, in addition to those mentioned above: Konstant Kykyri,1903; Samuel Koskela,1916; Lauri Paloranta, 1980; Ed Takala, 1992; Ed Holli, 1994.

In 1933 Otava Lodge had 33 members. The Great Depression was a difficult time for the people from the Mesabi Iron Range communities such as Eveleth and surrounding areas because major industries such as iron mining and steel production on which the area depended were hard hit. The events of the 1930's and early 1940's made it difficult for the Knights of Kaleva to thrive. As the effects of a worldwide economic depression was finally coming to an end in 1939, Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union, successor to the Russian Empire. Dictators of the two most brutal regimes in the twentieth century, Josef Stalin, Marxist leader of the Soviet Union and Adolph Hitler, Nazi leader of Germany, signed a pact not to interfere in each other's invasions of countries in the region. The Winter War of 1939-1940 not only proved the courage and will of the Finnish people in their resistance to Soviet aggression and territorial expansion, but also the lack of political will from the international community to confront those two dictators. When the United States and its western allies chose to ally themselves with Stalin's regime to fight Hitler's regime, all who had their roots and heritage in being Finnish where in anguish. Finnish-American organizations including the Knights of Kaleva and its local lodges such as Otava Lodge sought to provide relief funds to the people of Finland and casualties of war. Ironically, this was seen by some as aiding America's enemies. Yet Otava Lodge members, American combat veterans of wars from World War II to Vietnam, have both treasured their Finnish heritage and proved their devotion to their country.

A New Generation

Following World War II and into the 1950's activities began to pick up again in Otava Lodge and throughout the Kaleva Knighthood. But the membership was aging. Children being born into the Finnish speaking households of the immigrant generation had almost ceased. The third generation was rising up. In 1950 the summer school camp was discontinued. From the late 1940's to the early 1960's many of the founders and early pioneers of Otava Lodge and the Knights of Kaleva would pass on: John Stone, founder of the Kaleva Knighthood died in 1946 in Virginia, Minnesota; Konstant Kykyri, last of the Otava Lodge founders, in 1956; Jacob Hill and John Tikkuri, pioneers in the Otava Lodge move to Eveleth and Long Lake, in 1962.

In 1956 men of Otava Lodge and the women of Valvotar Lodge assumed joint ownership of the island lodge. The old 150 foot wooden bridge to the island was removed; a new concrete reinforced bridge shortened to less than fifty feet by the use of fill was constructed. Resolutions for the by-laws of Kaleva Knighthood at the Grand Lodge Convention to conduct meetings in English and to admit non-Finnish spouses as lodge members were passed. Otava and Valvotar Lodges hosted the Grand Lodge Convention with activities in Eveleth and at Veteran's Lake Park on Ely Lake near by. Since 1904, Veteran's Lake Park has been the site of many annual northern Minnesota Midsummer Festivals (Juhannusjuhla) sponsored by the Finnish-American community. In more recent years Otava and Valvotar Lodges have held the Midsummer Festival on Kaleva Island. The long summer days and evenings of midsummer in Scandinavia and Finland have long been celebrated with outdoor activities, folk dancing, music and bon fires. The festival is also observed as the feast of St. John the Baptist (Juhannus). Finnish-Americans have adopted it as their own. And it is perhaps second only to Kalevala Day (February 28) in importance to the Kaleva Knighthood as a unique celebration of its Finnish heritage. A summer camp was held in 1956 at Perch Lake near Chisholm, Minnesota for the children and grandchildren of Kaleva Lodge members in an effort to stimulate the interest of the younger generation in their Finnish heritage. Subjects taught were the Finnish language, history, folk dances and songs, arts and crafts, and the Kalevala.

With the passing of the immigrant brother knights and the aspirations of their second generation offspring to follow the American Dream with its lure of big city opportunities, suburban living, mobility, and mass media, activities, interest, and membership in the lodge fellowship gradually declined in the 1960's and 1970's. In 1970 membership had dwindled down to seven. There was some discussion of merging with Pohjolainan Lodge (Maja #25) which had relocated from Soudan to Virginia in 1948 and had purchased the Valontuote (Light's Reward) Temperance Society building, renamed Kaleva Hall, in 1968. Although each lodge decided to maintain its independence, the Eveleth and Virginia lodges have cooperated in many activities over the years from co-hosting events to combining initiation rites for their respective new members.

The Reawakening

From the low point of 1970 dedicated members such as Lauri Paloranta and Edwin Luoma began a campaign in the late 1970's and early 1980's to revive interest and increase membership in Otava Lodge and Kaleva Island. Paloranta actively participated in Grand Lodge activities as an officer and promoted the ideals of the Knighthood until his death in 1986. One sign of the turn-around was the organization and successful implementation of an Annual Ice Fishing Contest at Kaleva Island and Long Lake with hundreds of contestants, an event which served the dual purpose of raising awareness of the Lodge and raising funds for growth and renovation.

Edwin Luoma, along with Edwin Takala and Edwin Holli (affectionately known as the "Three Eds") organized, recruited and mentored third and fourth generation members in the 1980's and 1990's. By their dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work they set the example for their brother knights in representing Otava Maja in the community and the Grand Lodge. By the 1990's, Otava Lodge had grown to nearly thirty members. Major renovation, restoration, and construction was financed and carried out on the main lodge, bridge and other buildings through fund raising activities, volunteer labor by the brothers, and grants from the Iron Range Resources agency (IRR). Besides the Three Eds, members such as Leroy Wiire, Jon Särkelä, Rodney Luoma, Ronald Lampinen, and David Hill have actively participated in lodge meetings, activities, projects, leadership positions, and as officers of the lodge or the Grand Lodge.

Otava Lodge celebrated its 100th anniversary in June 2001 during the traditional midsummer festival in a new century and a new millennium. Many changes have taken place over the first one hundred years. The Finnish immigrant community has become part of mainstream America. Most descendents have moved on to new locations and new opportunities. Few are told the stories of their ancestors, the origins of their history and culture; even fewer speak or understand Finnish. Few in the fourth and fifth generations trace all their ancestors to Finland, yet there are thousands of people of Finnish descent and thousands more who just admire and want to learn more about the history, language and culture of Finland and of Finnish-Americans. The Knights of Kaleva and Otava Lodge are striving to bridge the generations from the past to the future by finding the common ground for all. The Great Bear Lodge of Kaleva Island is the contemporary incarnation of a century old fellowship with roots that go back a thousand years and with a vision of the future. Join the adventure; learn from the past so that you too may teach the rising generations.

Otavan Maja Charter 1903
Otavan Maja
Great Bear Lodge
Kaleva Youth Camp
Kaleva Island 1933
Otavan Maja Officers

The Ladies of Kaleva

Not long after the founding of the Knights of Kaleva it became apparent that the wives, sisters, and daughters of the Knights of Kaleva and other women of Finnish descent shared the ideals of the Knighthood. The organization of the Ladies of Kaleva was founded in Belt, Montana and officially became part of the Kaleva Knighthood on July 30, 1904.

It is important to recognize that the Ladies are equal partners in the Kaleva Knighthood. At times they have been incorrectly considered by some as an auxiliary of the Knights of Kaleva and at other times seen as a separate organization with only a formal connection through the constitution and by-laws of the Kaleva Knighthood. That being said, the Ladies of Kaleva do have their own organization and leadership at both the local lodge (tupa) and Grand Lodge level. Many Knights of Kaleva lodges (majas) have matching Ladies of Kaleva lodges (tupas). As lodges were developed at different locations both men and women would organize their respective lodges. Members of the Kaleva Knighthood could form tupas wherever it was fit and suitable, but charters were issued by the Kaleva Knighthood (Kalevan Ritarit) Grand Lodge. At least nine accepted applicants were required to form a new tupa.

The Ladies of Kaleva have had the right and privilege to formulate their own laws as long as they were not in conflict with the Kaleva Knighthood Constitution or with those articles concerning the Ladies of Kaleva. The Ladies of Kaleva developed their own rituals, activities, and meeting times and places. They have been more consistent in maintaining the traditions of the first generation of founders, including the rituals, paraphernalia, and use of Finnish language at their meetings and formal activities. In recent years the women have done more to maintain the original ideals of fellowship and preservation of cultural heritage developed by the Kaleva Knighthood founders than have the men.

The Ladies of Kaleva have three levels or degrees of initiation in their tupas. They formed additional lodges for third degree members as did the men for their higher degree members, but unlike the men, they still have several separate and active higher degree lodges. Because of their social cohesiveness and their skills and energy in nurturing the educational and cultural values of the Kaleva Knighthood they have been vital to its existance.

Seal of the Ladies of Kaleva

Valvotar Tupa

The first Ladies of Kaleva Lodge was Mielikki Lodge (Tupa #1) and was founded on December 6, 1904 in Red Lodge, Montana, where Kalevainen Lodge (Maja #5) had been established in 1900. In 1905, when Otava Lodge had temporarily relocated in Minnesota to Eveleth from Sparta its original location, discussion first began about establishing a tupa in Eveleth as well as another maja. In April 1908, Valvotar Lodge (Tupa #20) began degree work and received its charter that year along with Sampsa Lodge (Maja #26) established by the men from Otava Lodge in Eveleth.

"Valvotar" in Finnish is the female personification of "vigilance" or watching, waiting on, attending to. In the Kalevala many qualities, conditions, or natural phenomenon were personified with the feminine suffix which could mean daughter but often meant spirit, such as, Ilmatar, (Air Spirit), Kivutar, (Pain Spirit), Tuonatar (Death's daughter), Suvetar, (Summer Spirit). Lodges, both majas and tupas, used the Kalevala as an inspiration for choosing their names. Valvotar Tupa is aptly named as it has been vigilant in preserving the ideals of the Kaleva Knighthood.

Piteä sinun pitävi
Pää tarkka, taneaa mieli,
Aina ankara ajatus,
Ymmärrys yhentasainen,
Iltasella silmät virkut
Valkeata vaalimahan,
Aamusella korvat tarkat
Kukon ääntä kuulemahan!
Konsa kukko kerran lauloi,
Viel' ei toista virkkanunna,
Silloin nuorten nousu-aika,
Vanhojen lepu'u-aika.
Kun ei kukko laulakana,
Ei äännä isännä lintu,
Piä kuuta kukkonasi,
Otavaista oppinasi,
Käyös ulkona usein,
Käyös kuuta katsomassa,
Otavaista oppimassa,
Tähtiä tähyämässä!

Be you ready by maintaining
Lucid thought, right understanding,
Always thinking unimpeded,
Understanding without failing,
Eyes alerted in the evening
To attend the vigil lamplight,
Ears discerning in the morning
To perceive the rooster's crowing.
When the rooster has crowed just once,
Not crowed yet it's second effort,
Then it's time the young awaken,
For the old ones to be resting.
If the rooster does not crow then,
Master's bird does not start crowing,
Keep the moon to be your rooster,
The Great Bear to give you guidance.
Frequently go to the outdoors,
Go out for moon observation,
From the Great Bear take instruction,
To starry night pay close attention.

Kalevala, Runo XXIII, 101-120

Over the years Valvotar Tupa has conducted many activities on its own or with the men of Great Bear Lodge (Otavan Maja). Those activities have included co-hosting the Midsummer festival celebrated by regional Finnish-American organizations, Kaleva youth actvities, and Grand Lodge convention activities, as well as, meetings of the tupa, service projects, fundraising, and administering and maintaining the Kaleva Island Lodge facilities.
Valvotar Tupa
Lodge of the Vigilant
Valvotar Tupa Charter 1908

Our Finnish Heritage

Land of Heroes.

From the western slopes of the Ural Mountains on the edge of Europe and west in the New World to the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific coast there are people who share a connection with a mother tongue. They never had an empire to call their own. They never rose up as a great civilization with vast armies or fleets conquering their neighbors or cultural institutions building great cathedrals, temples or cities. They desire to live, settle, and move about the land as neighbors not as master or subordinate. No one knows exactly where their mother tongue originated, but the family of languages radiates from an area between the upper Volga and the Baltic Sea. Although its roots are thousands of years old, it was not recognized in its various forms beyond its own speakers until the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. The people who developed and spoke these languages lived in relative isolation and centered their lives around woods, grazing lands, farms, and small settlements. The climate of long cold winters, unpredictable frosts, and an environment of endless forests, marshes, rivers, and lakes contributed to a culture of endurance and a tension between the inevitability of solitude and the need for community. Out of this setting came the language, songs, legends, and character of a people settled in the lands adjoining the northeast Baltic Sea known as Finns, or as they refer to themselves, Suomalaiset.

During the course of European history the Finnish speaking people of the land known today as Finland were subjects, first of the Kingdom of Sweden, and then the Russian Empire. From the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries Sweden laid claim to Finland. Many Swedes settled on the south and west coastlands. A layer of Swedish language, cultural, educational, and political authority was imposed on the people under Swedish rule. Unlike England for example, where Anglo-Saxon and Norman French influences blended into a new language and culture, most Finnish speaking folk, isolated by class or geography, kept their own language and identity. However, Swedish influence, both beneficial and detrimental, should not be underestimated; it was tutor and midwife to the development and birth of Finland as a western European nation. But the story of the Swedes in Finland and the Finnish Swedes is for another time and place. The century of Russian rule that followed Swedish rule had far less influence on Finnish identity. In fact it was, in part, Russia's capricious shifts between allowing autonomy and oppressing cultural identity that awakened Finnish nationalism.

The Suomalaiset had no heritage of courtly or conquering heroes on which to build their national character. Their legendary heroes would come from folk tales of men and women whose realms were not much larger than homesteads surrounded by vast areas of wilderness. The mythic stories of creation and spellbinding powers were rooted in prehistoric times, perhaps spanning a period of time from the Iron Age, about 400 CE, to the introduction of Christianity in the twelfth century. From those preliterate times until Elias Lönnrot and others began gathering and compiling the stories in the nineteenth century, legends, songs, charms, and folk tales were passed on from generation to generation by oral tradition. They were often sung or chanted to the playing of the kantele, a harp or zither-like instrument said to be created by Väinämöinen, the primeval sage and bard of the Kalevala. Väinämöinen, along with Ilmarinen and Lemmikainen, symbolized the heroes of the Kalevala. When Elias Lönnrot published the compiled and edited stories and songs as the Kalevala in 1835 and the final version in 1849, most of the song cycles included one or more of them as the main protagonists. Their adventures and struggles were an extraordinary mix of heroic quests and domestic pursuits, supernatural displays of power and very human frailties. The land of Kaleva from which they came is a place lost in the mists of time but resembled the timeless settings of homesteads and settlements in the regions of forests and lakes of Finland and Karelia. The Suomalaiset, the Finnish speaking people found their unique vision and voice in the heroes, the language, and the land of Kaleva. Persevering in the face of overwhelming obstacles, prevailing over or mastering the environment through understanding its sources and content, expressing the wonder of creation, the gratification of hearth and home, and the feelings of the soul, all these found their voice in the heroes of the Kalevala.

The New Land.

Around 1638, during the height of Sweden's power in Europe and the earliest days of European settlement in Atlantic North America, Swedish colonists settled along the Delaware River valley; among them were many Finns. But the vast majority of Finnish speaking immigrants came to North America during the last half of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth, precisely at the time of rising Finnish nationalism, cultural identity and independence in the old country. The Suomalaiset brought with them a newly minted sense of empowerment, dignity and worth as a people. Tens of thousands settled in the eastern industrial States of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan to work in the shops and factories, mines and quarries. The majority, nearly 100,000, settled in Upper Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, and Washington to work in the mines and forests. Many were physicians, attorneys, merchants, teachers, architects and accountants, but most worked on the land or labored with their hands. Most dreamed of having their own homestead and settled on whatever land was available, no matter how marginal it might be, not because they preferred it, but because that was what was available, and they had the knowledge and perseverance to make it work. Often they worked in the mines or lumber camps until they could homestead cut over or abandoned land.

Communication and travel between Finland and North America was maintained at a high level. Finnish language literature and music, religious and cultural institutions, the temperance movement, the cooperative movement among other ideas are shared values between Finns in Finland and North America. Many of the immigrants or their children would return to their home communities in Finland, often to stay, when the need arose. Later, large numbers of Finnish–Americans would visit Finland as a pilgrimage to explore their roots. Also many relatives of Finnish–Americans would come to see their American cousins.

Close to Home.

In Upper Michigan, Northern Wisconsin, and Minnesota immigrants and later visitors from Finland were astonished at the similarity of climate and terrain with Finland. The glacial altered landscape of moraines, eskers, and rocky outcrops, the forests, lakes, and bogs, even the inland sea of Lake Superior reminded them of their homeland. Finns, like many immigrant groups, tended to form communities in which they could share their language, culture and resources. The most visible sign of a Finnish presence was and is the sauna. Farms, lake homes and cabins would have a traditional sauna with a wood burning stove heating rocks in a small building near the farm house or on the lakeshore. The coop store, the temperance hall, and the Finnish church would also identify a Finnish immigrant community in the early days. Finnish language publications, music, dance, choral and theatrical performances allowed the expression of their love of the language and folk ways in their culture. The largest growth of the immigrant communities in the region occurred during the decades around the beginning of the twentieth century. The Kalevala, in several translations, and the symphonic works of Sibelius were receiving international acclaim at that same time.

The Finnish immigrant community drew inspiration from these cultural icons, but none more than the Knights and Ladies of Kaleva. Although the Fellowship of the Kaleva Knighthood resembled other closed fraternal organizations and their auxiliaries, including the initiation rites, degrees, offices, and membership benefits, it drew its focus on loyalty, courage, and brotherhood from the heroes and stories of the Kalevala. The symbols of knighthood, the shield, helm, and sword became the visible signs in the rituals of fellowship for the qualities of the heroes. The symbols of the tupa shed light on the supportive role of the sisterhood. Being attentive, steadfast, and compassionate are the keys to a secure and welcoming hearth and home. The brothers and sisters from all walks of life, from town and country, from modest means and prosperity found common ground in those noble qualities and the harsh environment that developed the character of their ancestors.

Many of the immigrant brothers in the early days of Great Bear Lodge on Kaleva Island worked the earth as miners or farmers along the Mesabi Range. The soil and rock dust was in the air they breathed and the pores of their flesh. Finnish, the language of closeness with "maa," the land, was on their lips. The test of hard work and hard climate tempered by "sisu," – firmness of mind and spirit, perseverance and unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger – defined their speech and action. The sounds and rhythms of creation sang and danced in their poetry, music and recreation. They brought the timeless strengths of the Old Ways and embraced the wonder and energy of the new Finnish nation and their new American home in their fellowship. Each generation since then has endeavored to maintain that heritage and adapt to an ever-changing world. But fewer brothers speak Finnish with each passing year. Fewer brothers place as much value on the rituals of the Knighthood as the founders did. Fewer brothers read, learn or listen to the stories, poems, and songs of the Kalevala, the Suomalaiset, the Finnish-American pioneers or the Kaleva Knighthood. And fewer brothers pass this priceless heritage along to the rising generation.

Finland is a modern nation state with an advanced technological society. The cell phone might be a more appropriate symbol of the contemporary culture than the kantele. But much of what defines Finnish–America, the language, the customs, and the connection with the homeland, were defined by the people and events at the turn of the twentieth century. Many Finns in twenty-first century Finland would find the language and customs that have been preserved in Finnish America – quaint. Many North Americans of Finnish descent have lost touch with their roots and find the trail to rediscovery gone cold in these changing times. But one constant remains: the island. As long as there is a fellowship that values the Kaleva Island Lodge as a place to gather in brotherhood, the spirit of the Knighthood will endure. The lapping of the waves at water's edge, the liquid song of the hermit thrush, the whisper of the wind in the pines, the call of the loon across the waters, the scent of wood smoke from the sauna, the hiss of steam on the stove rocks, the aroma of cardamon and coffee, the crackling roar of a midsummer's bonfire, the "laulu" of Finnish speaking voices in the meeting hall, the shout of children playing games or plunging into the cold lake water to swim, the long summer twilight, the sharp crunch of blue winter snow, the breathtaking cold of clear starry nights, the dancing northern lights, all these are ageless.

In the mystical connection of the Kalevala among all those who cherish their common heritage, it is but a short span across the tapestry of time to hear Väinämöinen sing of eternal fellowship.

Anna toisteki, Jumala,
Vastaki, vakainen louja,
Näin näissä ilottavaksi,
Toiste toimiteltavaksi,
Näissä häissä pyylypoian,
Pitkävillaisen pioissa!
Anna ainaki, Jumala,
Toisteki, totinen luoja,
Rastia rakettaviksi,
Puita pilkoteltaviksi,
Urohoisessa väessä,
Miehisessä joukkiossa!
Anna ainaki, Jumala,
Toisteki, totinen luoja,
Soivaksi Tapion torven,
Metsän pillin piukovaksi
Näillä pienillä pihoilla,
Kapeilla kartannoilla!
Päivät soisin soitettavan,
Illat tehtuävän iloa
Näilla mailla, mantereilla,
Suomen suurilla tiloilla,
Nuorisossa nousevassa,
Kansassa kasuavassa!

Grant us once again, Holy One,
In due time, steadfast Creator,
Just as now, to bring rejoicing,
Once again to bring fulfillment
By rejoicing for the Great One,
At the feast of the Adorned One!
Grant us ever thus, Holy One,
Once again, one true Creator,
That the guide posts be erected,
That the trees be blazed to guide us,
The heroic people gathered,
All the manly host among us!
Grant us ever thus, Holy One,
Once again, one true Creator,
That the horn of Tapio sounds forth,
That the forest pipe sounds clearly,
Even in this modest clearing,
Even in this enclosed homestead!
Through the day let music ring out,
Through the eve'ning make all joyful.
In these plots of settled country,
In these wide domains of Suomi,
With the rising generation,
With these youth now taking their place!

Kalevala, Runo XLVI, 620–644



The Great Bear Lodge of the Knights of Kaleva (Otavan Maja #7, Kalevan Ritarit) of Eveleth is chartered by the State of Minnesota and is a member lodge of the Kalevan Knighthood Grand Lodge (Kalevan Ritarikunta Ylin Maja) by charter. It is in association with the Lodge of the Vigilant of the Ladies of Kaleva (Valvotar Tupa #20, Kalevan Naiset).

The purposes of the The Great Bear Lodge in the Kaleva Knighthood: To provide for the uplifting educational and moral standards of its members; to develop the bonds and strengths of brotherhood; to provide protection and assistance for members by unified cooperative effort; to preserve the rituals and customs of the fraternal order; to develop a spirit of Finnish kinship; to assist in the establishment of new majas and tupas, and to seek new membership.


An applicant for membership into the Knighthood of the Great Bear Lodge must be an adult male of good moral habits and character, at leat 18 years of age, of Finnish lineage (in the broadest sense of the word) or may be the spouse of a qualified member of Ladies of Kaleva, must be able to write and speak the Finnish language or American English, must have lived in the community where he seeks membership for at least nine months, and shall have paid the major portion of the prescribed initiation fee. The initiation fee for membership in Great Bear Lodge will be at least $20.OO. An application for membership is accepted by consent of the membership according to the Articles of the Constitution of the Kaleva Knighthood. When an applicant for membership is rejected, any and all money he has paid for application will be refunded. Members of other lodges (majas) may transfer membership or resign and apply for membership. They must be approved for membership by consent of the lodge.

Applicants for membership to Great Bear Lodge who have been accepted are considered candidates for the Kalevan Knighthood. The privilages and benefits of membership are not available until the candidate has been initiated into the Order in the First Degree. APPLICATION FORM

Lodge Companion.

Affiliation with the Great Bear Lodge as a Companion is an opportunity to become involved with the Knights of Kaleva, Kaleva Island Lodge activities, and the many organizations and activities of the Finnish-American community in our region and throughout the country. It will also provide access to information, books, items, and events relating to Knights of Kaleva and the Finnish-American culture. Companion membership is open to anyone who pays the annual membership fee of $20.00. Membership includes a membership certificate, Island Home, the quarterly newsletter of the Lodge, a copy of the Kalavainen, an annual publication of the International Kaleva Knighthood, a discount for Kaleva Island Lodge rental, and invitations to Kaleva Lodge sponsored events. APPLICATION FORM