Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fort Wilkins Presentation

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Image of the parade grounds and officers' quarters at Fort Wilkins, a restored 19th century frontier fort in Copper Harbor, Michigan, on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

I (Gary) had an opportunity to round out the Summer 2012 Evening Programs at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor a couple of weeks ago. Occurring August, 24, 2012, the talk went well and was attended by around 45 people from all over Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

I've been giving talks at Fort Wilkins for about five years and really enjoy the setting and people. I started giving talks on my experiences with training and racing Alaskan husky sled dogs, moved to talking about Finnish American labor history, and now presented on "The 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike: New Perspectives."

I unveiled some of the new material we have come across in our research for the upcoming book, and the response was very good...many interesting and challenging questions. Authors can learn so much from these talks just by listening to and thinking about audience questions. I'm continually impressed by the questions I get and always try to think if I've addressed these ideas in the book and if not how I might be able to when given the chance to edit the book.

Also met a couple of union folks in the audience. One gentleman was a UAW worker from downstate Michigan and another was a public school teacher from Wisconsin. Both had interesting stories and we talked about everything from the 1937 Sit-down Strike to the March on Madison of recent history. One conclusion I came to after talking with these men and studying labor history for years is that unions are under constant attack. Union folks always have to be vigilant because powerful lobbyists, politicians, and corporations are eternally looking to peel back some of the hard fought rights workers have won in the valiant working class struggles of the past.

This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons from our book on the 1913-14 Strike; people fought hard for workers' rights and we should honor and remember their sacrifices by continuing the fight. We honor the struggle of Copper Country workers by working for and being vigilant toward the rights they marched, sang, and sadly, in some instances, died for.

It is always an honor to be at Fort Wilkins and I learn and enjoy my time presenting there.

Fort Wilkins State Park is a real jewel among the Michigan State Parks system. There are (at various times) live historical interpreters, outdoor recreation opportunities, a lighthouse tour, some excellent exhibits, and in the winter some great cross-country ski trails. Please see the link for more information:

1 comment:

  1. Gary and Aaron,
    I met you both before, and I and my co-partner in the Annie's Legacy Project, Lyndon Comstock, would like to communicate with you at times, but we fail to find out how. I finally found an email address for you Aaron, at but I dont know if you received my announcement of Annie being inducted into the International Labor Hall of Fame that we nominated Annie into.
    My email address is
    Thx! Joanne Thomas


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