SOP 10: Finnish in the Gorge

by | SOP 10


In the early 1900s a Finnish community settled in the Hood River Valley. In particular the Annala, Hukari, and Jakku families. Why did they journey to the United States from Finland and then to the mines of Minnesota, plains of North Dakota, and finally to the West coast and the Columbia River Gorge? How did their migration change them as well as the community in which they settled? And what similarities and differences were there between the Finnish experience settling in the Gorge and that of another group, the Japanese? Maija Annala Yasui was born in Hood River in 1950 into an extended family of Finns. She enjoyed the traditions throughout her childhood without knowing that the culture in which she was growing up was different from others around her. The neighborhood of Oak Grove, where her father and extended family raised apples and pears, provided a sense of security and service. You couldn’t ride your bike around the block, Kenwood Drive, Reed Road, and Country Club without encountering an Annala, Hukari or Jakku home. Maija left Hood River to attend college, getting a bachelor of science degree in sociology and criminology from Portland State University. She returned when she married Flip Yasui and began farming and raising a family in the Odell area. She continues to live on Willow Flat Ranch with her husband of almost 50 years, a third-generation farmer, surrounded by her three children and seven grandchildren who continue to work on the farm as well. Maija worked in prevention research and practice for over twenty-five years, in the county as well as at the state and national level. She has written a monthly column for the Hood River News since 1992 recounting many of the stories of her youth, the Annala and Yasui families. She has also worked with author Lauren Kessler, The Stubborn Twig, with Lise Yasui on the documentary A Family Gathering, and her first writing adventure was in a writers’ workshop which resulted in several short stories Aakki Daakki to Zoomorphic, authored by Pat Krussow. Maija’s passion is social justice, working to right the wrong and to create a positive future for those suffering from discrimination and inequality.