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THEMES OF ISOLATION IN SASKATCHEWAN RADIO DRAMA - page 33 / 185

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Timescape: History Plays and Isolation

27

from North Battleford to lie beside his ship. The site was officially dedicated on June 19,

1977 (Mullin et. al. “Together at Last”).

For the museum, LT. "Moon" Mullin, Eldon Owens and Dick Meacher

collaborated on a summary of Sukanen’s life.31 Born in Finland, Sukanen was trained in

shipbuilding and seafaring. He came to North America with dreams of using his skills as

a steelworker to raise enough money to return to Finland and live comfortably, hopefully

with a family. He began farming in Minnesota, where he married a widow and fathered

four children. Word of free land for homesteading drew Sukanen north to Canada in

1911. There, he hoped to stake a claim, raise some money, and bring his family to

Canada. Sukanen walked the 600 miles to the Macrorie-Birsay region of Saskatchewan

where he homesteaded near the farm of his brother, Svante. By most reports, Sukanen

did well as a farmer and as an inventor. He built a small-scale thresher, which he hired

out to local farmers, he built a sewing machine for making his own clothes and he would

also let local farmwives use it. He soon had clear title to his homestead and nine

thousand dollars in savings.

Trouble began for Sukanen when he walked back to Minnesota, seven years after

he left for Canada. He found his wife dead of influenza and his children scattered into

foster care. Repeated attempts to reclaim his children earned him a deportation back to

Canada. The Depression convinced Tom that it was time to return to Finland – in his

own boat. There are some reports that he scouted the route from Saskatchewan to

Hudson Bay in a rowboat first. While drought and the Depression raged in the 1930s,

31 A more complete look into the life and works of Tom Sukanen, complete with a virtual tour of his ship, the Dontianen, can be found at the Sukanen Museum’s website: http://www.sukanenmuseum.ca/.

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