Yoopers Have Sisu


→ Courage

→ Determination

→ Strong will

→ Fortitude

→ Having guts

→ Grit

→ Endurance

Recently an article titled “Michigan’s Upper Peninsula struggles to survive” seemed to make headlines in every news source in the Upper Peninsula, many across the state, and a few national sources. In each case the reporters failed to mention that, Finnish or not, Yoopers have sisu.

Sisu embodies all of the characteristics mentioned above and is an ability to overcome adversity. However, sisu is not defined by a moment of courage. Sisu is continuous, the ability to sustain pressure and adversity over long periods of time.

The idea of sisu is highly regarded in the history of Finnish culture, a culture that has flourished in the Upper Peninsula. Today nearly 16% of people in the Upper Peninsula have a Finnish heritage. The core of it being in the Keweenaw, home to Finlandia University. With the Upper Peninsula’s strong Finnish heritage we too have embraced the quality of sisu.

Whichever words above you use to define sisu, it is an idea that’s been long embraced by Yoopers. The New York Times in 1940 said that sisu is “A word that explains Finland.” They go on to say:

“They will tell you it is the most wonderful of all their words. It is not easily translated, because no other language has its precise equivalent. Even the Finns have difficulty in defining it.”

A TIME Magazine article published in 1943 further elaborates on concept of sisu.

“… sisu enables [the Finnish] to say: ‘We have nothing worse than death to fear.’”

If the Upper Peninsula is “struggling to survive” or not (Yooper Steez remains biased), we’ll leave for the experts to determine. At the end of the day we have something more important, sisu.

We asked on Facebook, “What’s your definition of sisu?”