Little Steamship on the Prairie: Grass-Roots Preservation and Artistic Interpretation in the Construction of Ethnic, Local, and National Identities


  • Thomas A. DuBois



Finnish North American migration, Finnish Canadians, cultural heritage, handmade objects


The enigmatic life of Finnish-Canadian pioneer Tom (Damianus) Sukanen (1878-1943) is discussed in connection with his steamship Sontiainen, today preserved at the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum, outside of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The article examines details of Sukanen's life and the wide array of plays, novels, films, and musicals that have been made about him since the 1970s. The question of representing heritage through preserved artifacts and museums is explored.

Author Biography

Thomas A. DuBois

Thomas A. DuBois is Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Folklore and Religion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With a PhD in folklore and folklife, he researches and teaches on a range of Nordic folklore topics, particularly in connection with Finnish and Sámi cultures.


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How to Cite

DuBois, T. A. (2023). Little Steamship on the Prairie: Grass-Roots Preservation and Artistic Interpretation in the Construction of Ethnic, Local, and National Identities. Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, 30, 1–29.