Finnish North American Literature Association
Gary Kaunonen is a graduate student in Michigan Technological University's doctoral
program in Rhetoric and Technical Communication.
He was Archivist, Historian, and Collections Development Coordinator for the
Finnish American Historical Archives of Finlandia University. For two years, he wrote a
monthly column titled "Heritage Hetki" for the Finnish American Reporter.
Gary Arthur Kaunonen was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, in 1975, and grew up in Braham,
Minnesota, spending time in the summer on the Minnesota Iron Range. He earned his B.S.
from Minnesota State University at Mankato in 2003 with majors in Anthropology, History,
and Psychology. In 2007, he completed his M.S. in Industrial History and Archaeology at
Michigan Technological University, with focuses in social, labor, and immigration history,
material culture of mining and industrial communities.
Both of Gary Kaunonen's parents hail from the Minnesota Iron Range and his dad's side of
the family is from the Finnish immigrant agricultural enclave of Embarrass, Minnesota.
Originally from Alaharmä, Vaasa, and immigrating in the 1920s, his grandfather Niilo
worked as a subsistence farmer and then in the iron mines joining the Steelworkers; he
never crossed a picket-line during a strike. His grandmother Viena, whose parents were
Finnish immigrants, worked at home, in a canning factory in Virginia, Minnesota, and at a
Finnish American cooperative store They read Työmies, Industrialisti, Työvaen
Osuustoimintalehti and the Pyramid Builder. His parents went to dances at Mesaba Coop
Park in Hibbing. Gary says that he identifies with his Finnish heritage through the labor
His research interests include immigration, labor and social history, industrial communities
and material culture of the working class. He wrote his Master's thesis on Finnish American
labor history in Michigan, and has lectured and presented extensively on Finnish American
labor history and other topics. He has eleven Alaskan husky sled dogs and has raced in area
events; he says of them, “working dogs for the working class.”
Check out the Finnish American Labor History web-site:
2009 Finns in Michigan, Discovering the Peoples of Michigan Series, Michigan State
Organized by sections of work in logging, heavy industry, traditional labor and
Finnish cultural organizations, Gary Kaukonen in Finns in Michigan examines the
complexities of immigration, labor and ideology among this ethnic group.
Kaukonen's accurate representation includes examination of Finnish American
religious institutions, temperance societies, working-class political and labor groups,
the cooperative movement, and a nationalist association of Finns.
2010 Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in
Michigan's Copper Country, manuscript, to be published by Michigan State University
Articles and Guides:
2004 “Educational Plan,” Keweenaw National Historical Park.
2005 “Industrial Calumet Walking Tour,” co-authored with Dan Johnson, Keweenaw
National Park Service, Won Best Map or Guide Award at the 2006 Association of Partners
for Public Lands Media and Partnership Awards.
2005 Immigration Studies and the Long Memory: Rediscovering and Reconnecting to Your
Past, published in Keweenaw Ingot, Keweenaw National Historical Park.
2006 “Calumet Downtown Walking Tour,” co-authored with Dan Johnson, Keweenaw
National Park Service.
2006 “Escaping on an Iron Horse,” article published in Keweenaw Ingot, National Park
Service newspaper--Keweenaw National Historical Park.
2006-08 Monthly column in the Finnish American Reporter entitled Heritage Hetki, (A
2010 "The Italian Hall and the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike," "The 1907 and 1916
Minnesota Iron Ore Strikes," "Work Peoples' College," "Gus Hall," and "Leo Laukki" entries
in The Encyclopedia of American Labor History, 3 vols., ed. Melvyn Dubofsky, New York:
Facts on File.
Awards and Honors:
2002 Theodore P. Nydahl Award, Dept. of History-Minnesota State University-Mankato
2002 Allis Award recipient, Minnesota State University-Mankato
2002 Phi Alpha Theta, Lambda Beta Chapter, International Honor Society in History
2003 Gamma Theta Upsilon, International Honor Society in Geography
2003 Research Grant Award, Department of History-Minnesota State University-Mankato
2003 David Taylor Award, Department of History-Minnesota State University-Mankato
2003 National Park Service Star Award, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Calumet, MI
2004 Michael G. Karni Grant, Immigration History Research Center-U of MN,
2006 Media and Partnership Award, Association of Partners for Public Lands, Best Maps
and Guides Category-Fall 2006
2006 National Scholars’ Honor Society