Scandinavian Folk Fisher Communities in Isle Royale National Park
Rebecca S. Toupal and Richard W. Stoffle, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University
of Arizona, February 26, 2003
Abstract: Scandinavian folk fishermen have lived and fished in Isle Royale National Park since the late 1880s. Recent research conducted by the University of Arizona targeted he family and community history, the long-term use of landscapes and resources, and the contemporary concerns for the island fisheries and the fisher way of life. This research, which was carried out in the field through systematic interviews and site visits with members of Scandinavian-American fishing community revealed an extant Scandinavian fisherman cultural landscape that is recognized by and important to these members of pre-park fishing families. Our research also indicates that the Scandinavian American community, in its attempts to recreate the motherland landscape and lifeways, has created a culture of its own, complete with oral history, family heritage, environmental knowledge, community layout and social life, and distinctive material culture. This transposed culture rightfully qualifies as "folk" and thus should be preserved to the extent feasible by state historic preservation offices as well as by NPS. NPS's current management goals are geared toward a wilderness landscape that is perceived by the fishing families to be incompatible with the lifestyle of this cultural group, however, the cultural landscape of these families has little overlap with the majority of the Island. The results provide NPS personnel with new information that allows them to incorporate folk culture within the existing interpretative program while supporting the NPS mandates of preservation and public enjoyment.