Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Short Shot of Holiday Cheer...

Splendidly isolated by geography, circumstance & choice, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan remains a world apart.

For a thousand years and more the region played host to native tribes, with the occasional white folk mostly just passersby and latecomers at that. Then came the discovery of mineral riches and hot on the heels of that came the treaties of 1836 and 1842. Those gave the entire place over to capital concern (which was the point) and for the Anishinabe made the land into what's even today referred to as "ceded territory".

There immediately followed wave upon wave of immigrants, who bequeathed to the place a remarkably rich cultural heritage. Swedes. Italians. Cornish, English & French. French Canadians. Latvian, Russian and Jew. Danes, Germans, Hungarians, Greeks, Icelanders, Irish and more. All were drawn to the wilderness by that quintessential American promise of "streets paved with gold", but upon arrival to the U.P. they found little gold and damned few streets, too.

All the same, many stayed and their imprint on the region remains a permanent cultural gift.

Perhaps the most influential of these immigrants were the Finns, who found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a land that resembled home. It's their lilting, musical version of American English that forever colored the U.P.'s distinctive dialect, called Yooper by most and perhaps best exemplified by the bumper sticker seen on cars both far and wide that reads: "Say Ya to da U.P., eh?"

What's true is that once the place gets in your blood it never leaves, even when you leave it.

So if the Upper Peninsula is a nation unto itself (and it is), and if opening day of deer season is its national holiday (it most certainly is) and if the people of the region manage to maintain a robust sense of humor even in the hardest of times (which they absolutely do), then today we'll take a moment out to celebrate Yooper culture with a timely song:


  1. Nice history lesson. Well-written and very informative. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Welcome, Rena. It's nice to have you here.

    More to come...

  3. Great article and I gotta tell ya--the song surprised so much my...well so much, ya?

    1. Thanks Nonnie. The dialect is exquisitely rhythmic and irresistibly infectious. That "eh?" question mark at the end of declarative statements is transformative...