The human history of Enontekiö can be traced back to the Stone Age. Dwellings from this era have been found to the north of Ounasjärvi and on Karjalansaari. Some 1000-year-old arrowheads have been found in Näkkälä.
The first means of livelihood in the region were hunting and fishing. The early hunters used deer pits – some can be seen in Hetta on the Peurapolku trail.This is one of the largest groups of hunting pits found in Lapland. Deer may have fallen into the pits on their own, but they were also chased towards their demise.
The deer hunting sites also included a basecamp, meat stores and sites of worship in addition to the traps. There has been a site of worship, seita, at the top of Jyppyrä as well. It was a large quadrangular rock that stood atop four smaller rocks. According to folk memory, the people who built the Enontekiö church rolled the sacred rock down to Lake Ounasjärvi in the 19th century.
Large-scale reindeer herding spread to Enontekiö in the 17th and 18th centuries. The nomadic herders travelled with their reindeer according to the seasons in an area ranging from the coniferous forest belt to the Arctic Ocean. Reindeer herding is still an important occupation in Enontekiö.
Agriculture arrived in Enontekiö when the first farms were established in the late 17th or early 18th century. Other means of livelihood included making reindeer glue and boat and sledge building.
Lapland War was fought in 1944–45 as part of World War II. The armistice of Finland’s Continuation War with the Soviet Union required that German troops be driven out of Finland. As the Germans retreated towards the north, they adopted a scorched earth policy. Most of the buildings in Enontekiö, even the church, were burned down, and the people had to flee to Northern Sweden.
In the later stages, Enontekiö was the site of trench warfare, as the German 7th Mountain Division took heavily fortified positions along the Sturmbock line. The Järämä fortification is the only one still standing. The road between Kaaresuvanto and Kilpisjärvi was built during the Continuation War for military use.
Finnish troops stopped at the village of Markkina, and no actual battles were fought. Hostilities ended in Kilpisjärvi on 25 April 1945. The last remaining German troops evacuated to Norway on 27 April and Finland considered the war had ended.
As people returned to their devastated homes, a massive reconstruction effort began. As most houses were burnt down, the majority of the buildings in Enontekiö are from the post-war era.
The allure of Lapland’s nature and improved infrastructure sparked a new wave of nature tourism in Finland in the 1930s. Enontekiö was a popular destination from the start. Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park (Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park since 2005) and Kilpisjärvi were the first must-see destinations for keen nature lovers of the time. The first accommodation services sprung up in Enontekiö in the 1920s and the Hetta-Pallas trail was marked in 1934. Many of the travel companies in Enontekiö have strong roots in the region as well as generations of experience with travellers.
Enontekiö’s nature has always drawn scientists to the region. Already in the 18th century, the Italian explorer Giuseppe Acerbi and English geologist Edward Clarke visited Enontekiö on their way to Nordkapp. Finnish scientists started field research in the region in the late 19th century. The Siilastupa hut in Kilpisjärvi was built as a basecamp for researchers and travellers in the early 20th century. University of Helsinki’s research station in Kilpisjärvi, which is still in operation, was built in 1964.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a triangulation chain that stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. It was used to determine the shape and size of our planet in the 19th century. One of the points is located in the Käsivarsi wilderness, atop Stuorrahanoaivi, close to the Norwegian border. The first point was established in 1850 and a second followed in 1852. Both are marked with crosses carved into rock. The Struve Arc was included on the World Heritage List in 2005 as part of our heritage in science and technology.
We have clean air, clear waters and room to breathe. When you're out and about in Enontekiö, do remember that while the environment may seem barren, it's actually full of life. You’re in someone’s home: the local people, animals and plants all co-exist here.
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