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Miss S. Stefansson, A Life of Service

Following is an excerpt from a biography being written about Miss Sigurbjorg Stefansson, the remarkable teacher who taught school in Gimli from 1923 to 1962.

The writer, Audrhea Lande, has gained access to Miss Stefansson’s personal letters, essays, and documents and has interviewed former students, neighbours, three family members who reside in Canada, and the executor of her estate, Valdi Arnason.

She paints a portrait of an articulate intelligent woman who is fondly remembered for her inspired teaching, as well as for her community philanthropy, political views, and activism. Carefully detailed research has shown Miss Stefansson to be the embodiment the Icelanders’ love of books, philosophy, debate, and community values. This is one of a series of excerpts from the biography that Lögberg-Heimskringla will carry over the next few months.
 
The writer Audrhea Lande has worked for many years as a teacher and school principal in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has retired to pursue her love of research and writing on historical topics and social issues. While she is not an Icelander, she has much admiration for the spirit of endurance, community, and literacy that the Icelandic culture holds dear.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 – A Pioneer Girl’s Journey
Audrhea Lande

It had become clear to Helgi and Thura Stefansson that there was no future for them in Mountain, North Dakota. They had been living there for the past ten years, and still had no house or land of their own.

Owning land could secure a man’s fortunes, but in order to own land there, a person had to have money, and they had none. Even if they did, all the best land in that part of North Dakota had already been bought up, so, as Sigurbjorg wrote in one of her essays, her parents, Helgi and Thura, decided to look elsewhere, to emigrate again: “Canada was then offering homesteads of 160 acres of which men could obtain full possession with a ten dollar payment and living and working on them for three years.

About or before 1904 my father set out by horse and buggy with his uncle Johannes Stefansson, brother of explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, to examine conditions for settlement in Manitoba. They did not find them desirable because of feuding and hostility among settlers in the districts visited, who it was rumored, would even set fire to one another’s land. Instead they selected the wilderness of Assiniboia, soon to become the province of Saskatchewan.

The Canadian government was issuing brochures to attract settlers, explaining among other things that there was no longer danger from Indians! It was decided to settle in the Quill Lakes region.
 
Many homesteads, including, I believe, ours, were selected and booked for the settlers in advance by Thomas Paulson, brother of Wilhelm A. Paulson, MLA.” Sigurbjorg, writing this essay later in her life, looks back to the journey she took as a seven year-old in May 1905, vividly recalling details of the journey: “An entry from a diary says, “On the 22nd of this month (May, 1905) many from this community (Mountain, North Dakota) left for Canada and took with them their livestock, machinery and household goods. They intend to settle near Quill Lake in Assiniboia” …my father left his team of horses to be fetched later and instead tamed a pair of wild oxen. I can still remember their mad dash down the entire slope from Mountain, with the wagon swaying wildly from side to side behind them.
 
But my father standing in the wagon box never lost his grip on the reins and he won control of them at last.” Can you hear in Sigurbjorg’s words the pride of a seven-year-old in her father’s strength and skill? Indeed, the slope down the hillside at Mountain is steep, being the western slope of the Pembina River Valley, which extends southwards from Manitoba.

Others tell of contests at this site to see who could coast the furthest down the slope. The rise in elevation from the village of Mountain to the top of the hillside is more than two hundred feet, so the slope Helgi navigated in their oxen-yoked wagon was indeed substantial.
 
“Many have described the covered wagon caravans. Ours was open, with no protection from rain whatsoever. But the weather kept sunny. Each wagon, in our case a democrat (a two seat ranch wagon) was piled high with household goods, often with people sitting on top of the pile. The jolting was so severe that one man brought us a tin of cooking fat to see. It had all been shaken into round eggsized balls. The road was variable.
 
At one spot we crossed so deep a ravine (likely the valley of the Tongue River, shown in the photo be above) that I still wonder that no wagons tumbled over. The drivers must have been skillful, for all succeeded. I do, however, remember the man in front of us swearing heartily on the brink of the crossing, and then driving slantwise as did we.
 
Some of the men drove the combined herd of cattle, but how other livestock was conveyed I did not see. I remember cows being milked at night. We must have been a sight to see as we passed through towns. In one I saw a public vehicle (probably a bus) for the first time.

In fact, Sigurbjorg was likely mistaken in this regard. In 1905, buses were not yet in operation. Streetcars were running in Winnipeg, but as she says in her essay, they seemed to have passed through Winnipeg at night. The towns in North Dakota would have been small, unlikely to have streetcars at that early time.

So it’s unclear what she would have been referring to. She acknowledges: “My memory of all this is somewhat fragmented, as I was only seven years old at the time.” “The nights were spent wherever one could find shelter.
 
The first one was in a schoolhouse by the road. A kindly Irishman had offered my family lodging, but we chose to remain with the schoolhouse group. The next one must have been a barn, for I recollect waking up in a pile of hay. At Pembina we spent at least part of a day with a kindly Icelandic couple. Our next stage was boarding a colonist train at the border.”

They had covered a distance of forty-eight miles in their wagons, and now boarded a train that had been ordered up for this purpose. The train consisted of two coaches full of people and thirty-six boxcars, loaded with livestock and household goods and tools. Sigurbjorg had only faint memories of this train: “The women and children and aged men sat in upholstered seats that were laid flat at night to form beds. The other men, however, stayed in another part of the train, presumably the baggage section, and looked after the livestock. They would drop in occasionally for a few moments visit. We must have passed through Winnipeg at night. On one occasion we were all herded out of the train for a group picture.

 

OLYMPIC GOLD

The Olympics are here. At least they’re in Vancouver and that’s pretty close. There are a lot of different events but for many the ultimate sports are speed skating, figure skating and hockey.
 
I don’t ever remember anyone speed skating in Gimli.

There was figure skating. There was one boy who figure skated. Sissy stuff. None of us were bright enough to look at the odds. All those girls and one guy.
 
It was hockey that mattered. First, it was played on the outdoor rink. The rink had short wooden walls around it with snow piled up along the sides. We used to stand on these snow banks to watch the players stick handle down the ice. No one worried about getting hit by an errant puck. There was a shack where you could take off your shoes and put on your skates.
 
You sat on a wooden bench and tried to get your laces as tight as possible. If you didn’t have leg pads, you used thick newspaper and elastic bands. Later, there was an indoor rink. It was the height of luxury. You could stand inside and watch the action without freezing your feet. There were banks of wooden bleachers along the south side. On the north side there was a narrow space where we liked to stand. When a hockey stick got broken, the players would throw it over the boards. A broken hockey stick was a prize. It was usually good enough that we could use it to play on the road.
 
The roads in those days were covered in packed snow. We’d set up a couple of stove wood pieces for goal posts and pick teams. There was no need for a puck when we had road apples left by horses. Frozen solid, they worked just fine. The hockey games with local teams from Riverton, Arborg, Teulon, were charged with excitement. Businesses shut down and a cavalcade of cars would go to neighbouring towns for important games.
 
When there were home games people came wrapped in their warmest clothes and sat underneath beams thick with frost. There was a lot of screaming, “Go, go, go,” when someone had a breakaway and “Kill him, kill him,” when a fight started. There were a lot of fights. Too much testosterone in too small a space. There were often more fights in the stands than on the ice. At the end of some games, the RCMP had to escort the visiting players out to their vehicles.
 
If anyone mentioned the Falcons, I don’t remember it. On The Winnipeg Falcons Hockey Club website, it says, “After the Games, the fame, the glory and the celebrations, then what happened? Nothing, for a very long time. In fact, all of the team members had passed away long before the Olympic Falcons began to be remembered properly.”
As kids, we were intent on the local players and our awe was reserved for anyone who got picked to go to Winnipeg and try out for the farm team.

For a time, I thought not hearing about the Falcons may have been the distance. Gimli was a long way from Winnipeg in those days. Many people had never been to Winnipeg. Few people owned cars. Our national hockey was on the radio. We hung on to Foster Hewitt’s play-by-play report and thrilled to him shouting, “He shoots. He scores.” But then, I realized that the Falcons had been largely forgotten except for family and hockey fans with long memories.
 
The Falcons were a Wes End phenomenon and the West End, once solidly enough Icelandic to be referred to as Gooli Town had gradually eroded as people moved away. If you walk down Sargent Avenue with someone who grew up in the West End, the tour is all about where Icelandic firms used to be and, on the side streets, where Icelandic families used to live.
 
It’s not that the Falcons were completely forgotten. When team members’ names were mentioned, someone would put down his coffee and say, “Frank Frederickson, oh, I knew him.” Or stories about Konnie Johannesson would surface but these were often about his flying rather than his hockey. Maybe it is Icelandic Canadian modesty that there is no bronze sculpture of the team in the Gimli park.
 
Maybe Icelandic Canadians are too poor to raise such a monument to our greatest success. Or maybe it would be thought of bragging. Bragging is the worst sin, don’tjaknow? Maybe it’s just that sometimes years need to pass before people are able to look back and realize what is and what isn’t a great accomplishment. Maybe time wears away momentary flash and reveals worthy deeds.
 
Maybe what we see is not just hockey players, or even an Olympic gold team, but a group of remarkable individuals who volunteered to go to Europe to fight for Canada and England, who returned and made a social system respect them, who created a lasting legacy that still captures the imagination nearly a century later. There are those who, in an attempt to grab a piece of glory, would split semantic hairs over the name of the competition the Falcons entered and left triumphant but it was Olympic gold they won.
 
At these winter Olympics, we’ll watch hockey, both men and women’s, but as we do, for Icelandic Canadians there’ll always be figures on the ice others can’t see, skating faster, passing better, shooting harder.
 
The first to win Olympic gold.
 
Woolsey: Shades of high-flying Falcons
 
If ever there was a great Canadian sports story that deserves telling and retelling it is that of the Winnipeg Falcons – and what better time than now, on the eve of another Winter Olympics.
 
Some 90 years ago, the Falcons riveted our nation’s imagination when they won the first hockey gold medal in Games history. Through no fault of their own, though, the Falcons’ glorious story became tarnished and obscured and for too long was mostly lost in the mists of time.
 
Even for a nation that often has been accused of ignoring its own cultural heroes, the Falcons stand apart. While the Winnipeggers were the toast of Canada in the wake of their victory at the Olympics in 1920, they were not even inducted into the nation’s own Olympic Hall of Fame until 2006, in part because somewhere along the line the popular belief took hold that hockey was merely a demonstration sport at the time.
 
The historical record is clear: The Winnipeg Falcons, a team made up exclusively of the sons of Icelandic immigrants and every one of them a veteran of World War I, were the first Olympic champions in our national game.
 
Then, as now, early 20th century or early 21st, there was no more Canadian thing to do in the winter than play, or observe, hockey. The Falcons, according to a Government of Canada notation, “were unique in that they consisted solely of Icelandic Canadian players who, due to racial prejudice, had difficulty finding teams to play for in the Winnipeg Hockey League. Undeterred, they started their own league,” and went on to beat all comers and represent the West in the Allan Cup, the national amateur championship.
 
The local Manitoba rivalry between the Falcons and Selkirks was intense, leading at one time to hundreds of fans lining up overnight in a prairie blizzard to obtain tickets. Reported the Winnipeg Free Press: “There were some wild scenes at the door when the wicket opened at 10 o’clock and a number of young fellows tried to break through the line and they were met with a bunch of fists from those in the line and as result there a few black eyes in evidence after the police and rink officials put a stop to it.”
 
What’s more, “Several frozen feet were reported, while one man collapsed from exhaustion owing to a long wait without having had anything to eat.” The Falcons came East to face the University of Toronto for the Allan Cup and, by beating Varsity, won the right to represent Canada in the Olympics.
 
There were no separate Winter and Summer Games, rather icebased events in Belgium were held in late spring while the remaining events were staged in late summer (a partial explanation for the later “demonstration sport” myth taking hold).
 
The Falcons were decked out in gold-and-black jerseys (not sweaters), emblazoned with red maple leafs and the word “Canada.” (The Toronto Daily Star at the time reported the team “will wear jerseys instead of sweaters, as the weather will be too warm for the latter.”)
 
Their opponents would be somewhat limited as the Great War had only recently ended and hockey still had limited international popularity. Canada beat Czechoslovakia 15-0, the United States 2-0 and, in the final, Sweden 12-1. Everyone understood that the game vs. the States was the true championship.
 
“Special squads of soldiers were employed to get the players into the rink,” reported the Star’s W.A. Hewitt, about the scene at the Palais de Glace in Antwerp, “and they were accorded very special privileges, as they were supplying the attraction. Gentlemen in evening clothes on the outside implored the players to allow them to carry their skates and sticks, so they could obtain admission.”
 
There was only a handful of Canadian fans, although the crowd in general supported the Falcons, according to Hewitt, who became sports editor of the Star, later succeeded by Lou Marsh. The father of famed broadcaster Foster, the multitasking Hewitt refereed the Allan Cup games, then became the Falcons’ honorary team manager while also being an official representative of the Canadian Olympic Committee. After winning the gold medal, the players voted Hewitt and his wife “members of the team.”
 
The Canadian rooters “on the sidelines with the extra sticks and megaphone                    made more noise than all the rest of the crowd put together and what happened on the ice gave them plenty of scope for unrestrained enthusiasm,” wrote Hewitt. “All dignity was thrown aside for the moment and the spectacle of a usual quiet and reserved
 
Canadian standing on his seat waving his hat frantically, yelling like a madman, ‘Canada, Canada, come on Canada,’ made the Belgians marvel and the American supporters gasp with astonishment.”
 
How about that? Part I: Canadians set the bar for boosterism, above Americans
 
Among those in attendance were many U.S. servicemen, who were willing to wager on their team. “Most of them,” wrote Hewitt, “went back to camps ‘broke,’ while Canadian supporters enjoyed themselves to the limit of the American money that was left behind.”
 
How about that? Part II: Overt gambling on Olympic sports
 
Individually, the star of the Falcons was Frank Fredrickson, a Royal Flying Corps vet who scored both goals vs. the U.S. and was the tournament’s top scorer.  He went on to star in the pro Pacific Coast League, then moved to the NHL and became its first player-coach, in Pittsburgh.
 
The Falcons were a slick, smooth-skating team that might have been even more impressive if officials had decided to use the six-man game rather than the old seven-man format, which was being phased out in Canada.
 
“In Europe they have evidently a lot to learn about hockey,” said an editorial                    in Toronto’s World newspaper, exhibiting a fine prescience, “and will hardly become expert until they import players from Canada and then develop some kind of form by contact.”
 
Canada would dominate Olympic hockey from that first triumph in 1920 through the 1952 Games, but with amateurpro controversies and the ascendancy of the old Soviet Union would be shut out of gold for 50 years, until Salt Lake City.
 
The Falcons were welcomed home in style and while the Icelandic community, in particular, never forgot their accomplishments, it took a “Falcons Forever” campaign a few years ago to re-establish the historical precedents. Nike even came up with a reproduction jersey, in gold and black and Pepsi used the design on cans of its products.
 
There is a rich website, http://www.winnipegfalcons.com/ devoted to the team and a permanent public memorial has been established in Winnipeg. Source: The Toronto Star, February 11, 2010 Courtesy of Brian Johannesson  Editor’s note: Frank Fredrickson scored only the first goal against the Americans. Konnie Johannesson scored the second goal. The team was not entirely Icelandic: “Huck” Woodman was of British ancestry, from River Heights.


Travelling in Iceland on a budget

An email conversation with Jae Águstine Cameron Jae bicycled throughout Iceland last summer, two of those weeks with her father Jim Cameron, and also ran in the half-marathon (without training) - because she was there and it was happening.

She is a former Icelandic Canadian Club of BC princess, comes from Smithers, BC, and is in her 4th year at Concordia University, Montreal.
 
She was asked by another student what was an ‘economical’ way to travel around Reykjavík (Rvík) and Iceland and the following is her reply.  As of mid-October 2009 100 krónur is approx. $0.86 CAD 1000 krónur is approx. $8.60 CAD $1 CAD is approx. 116 krónur $100 CAD is approx. 11,607 krónur
 
The cheapest place to stay, by far, is camping. The campsite costs 1000 kr a night at the high season, I think 700 kr later on. Outside of Rvík, it’s often free, especially in the fall season. The international youth hostel was one of the cheapest hostels, and it’s connected to the campsite... it’s right beside the pool, on Sundlaugavegur (vegur means street) – cross street: Laugarásvegur.
 
It’s about 23-2800 kr a night but it has a kitchen and showers and laundry services and common room. The downtown city hostel is okay and cheap (3000 kr or so a night) but is in a great location, right on Laugavegur – the shopping street. There aren’t kitchens though, so the price starts to rise once you factor that in. If there is more than one person travelling, I’d recommend just getting a suite, either in the hostels or in the hotels, since the price starts to work in your favourthat way and you get some privacy.
 
Still keeping price as a main thought, food can be really expensive in Rvík and all over the country, with the exception of Pizza. Pizza is the ultimate failsafe for filling up on food. In Rvík, I went to a really interesting vegan cafe and co-op bookstore called Hljómalind which had soups and breads every day for 700 kr – which is great if you want to eat tomatoes or vegetables again, as they are in short supply in the country and ridiculously expensive. The cheapest option, sadly, is a Subway just down at the end of Laugavegur.
 
Of course, self-catering is the way to go, especially if you are in a hostel with a kitchen. Avoid the 10–11’s (similar to our 7-Eleven’s) if you possibly can; they are so overpriced since they are open 24 hours. The Bonus store on Laugavegur is the way to go. Cheese is super cheap and so are flatbreads.
 
In terms of bookshops, etc., in Rvík, I feel like the Lonely Planet does a better job than I would ever do, since all of my experience was just consulting it and then rambling around. I have to admit that any place, that serves waffles was the joy of my existence while there.
 
Something about how Icelanders make waffles is beyond divine. I mean, they have bananas (a luxury item, as one banana can be 100 kr) and Nutella (a staple) and cream...ooooahh! Almost every coffee shop is great, but I loved Mokka the most, despite expensive coffee, because of the atmosphere (let you sit around all day with the newspaper and outdoor area).
 
One great thing about the international city hostel that I can’t get over is their “free bin” in the kitchen, where tourists place all the items they won’t use. It’s a gold mine of cheeses, pastas, sauces – if one wanted, they would never have to buy food. If I’m on this subject, it is free to camp anywhere in Iceland for one night (as in two nights on the same field, no go, go to the next field and you’re home free) due to something called “the King’s Law” which states that everyone owns the land. It is common courtesy to warn the owner of the land (if there is one) that you will be staying there.
 
Of course, taking a sleeping bag is a must regardless of camping, since hostel and hotels charge a linen fee of about 400-700 kr per night if you don’t. In terms of places of interest, there’s a sculpture museum just out of town that is beyond scary, especially since it’s so understated – and seeing the main local art gallery (just to the right of the main square at the end of Lagarvegur) is a must.
 
Also there’s a gay club Barbara, one of the most beautiful bars, placed in an old house, and very friendly. Normally I’d recommend Hotel Edda, which are the schools that have been turned into accommodation (3200 kr or so) but they close on the 22nd of August. If anyone is in Iceland during the students’ summer vacation, it’s a good place to stay.
 
The breakfast was the best part of Hotel Edda – for 1000 kr it was an ‘all you could eat buffet,’ often including just vats of skyr and breads and cheeses and fruits and ... I could go on and on. One of them had a ‘make your own waffle’ station. Top notch. They also pack a lunch if you’re into it, another 1000 kr deal – two half sandwiches, one traditional (fish and rye), one “modern” (ham and cheese), a smoothie and fruit. Of course, I’m romanticizing it because it saved my life one day biking, when it was nine or ten at night and dad and I were so tired we could barely bike up the road, trying desperately to find some sort of pool.
 
We decided we ‘might as well’ try this place out and ended up being so happy about it. Dad, being a teacher, was also pretty into the idea of camping in a school.
 
This is directed to biking travellers
 
I was in Iceland for a month, but the bike trip was in two sections, one around the Golden Circle that took three days or so (but full days – remember the sun doesn’t go down – you start to bike and forget that it’s eight or nine at night) and another trip around the north for the rest of it.
 
In terms of mountains ... it’s more like rolling hills that just keep on climbing and climbing. One ‘mountain’ in particular sticks out, just outside of Akureyri (I still don’t really know how to pronounce Akureyri... like Mývatn... which I was given several different pronunciations by locals until I just uttered a gutteral Mmmmva) towards Húsavík… I think it took us two hours, no joke, of steady uphill.
 
I thought we would just die. There were at least three false summits, each time prompting me to swear wildly and scream, alerting dad to the fact that we weren’t out of it yet. Luckily, the wind was at our backs, otherwise I would have had to walk it, I’m sure. Going down that hill back into town was also a crazy ride.
 
I had the brakes on the whole time (and no longer have brakes, thanks to it) and was still going at a high speed. Cars would slow down and drivers would give us little honks or thumbs up as we tried to get up the hill, which was really nice and kept me going, at least.
 
There was another hill outside of – well, I guess about an hour’s drive southeast of Rvík, I’m not sure of the town. That took about an hour of steady climbing, with multiple false summits as well. About ten metres from the top of that one I got my first flat, so the timing is a bit off. To be honest, I was pretty happy to get the flat, in a weird way, because I could take a break from the uphill.
 
Something I didn’t mention but I think is important, in terms of mountains or things that make it hard to bike, are the rudders (for lack of a better word) for 75k outside of Rvik.

It makes it incredibly dangerous and almost impossible to bike – small lanes and no shoulder here plus these bumps (to keep drivers from falling off the road) make it impossible to bike anywhere but in the small lanes or on the treacherous gravel slopes.
 
Needless to say, we biked at 5k an hour, slow as possible, trying to stay within the two inches allowed and avoiding the trucks that nearly hit us over and over again. This is coming into town from the south-east. I know that leaving town from the north isn’t as bad (no bumpers).
 
In terms of towns, if travel-ling outside of Rvík, Akureyri is amazing. It’s all on a hill, very quaint but very happening at the same time. It’s a good northern capital for some exploration to Hofsós or Húsavík.
 
Email from Jae Águstine Cameron to her parents on completion of the Reykjavík Half-Marathon, August 22, 2009
 
I’ve just finished the Reykjavík marathon and man, am I tired. In true Rvík fashion it rained occasionally, was sunny every once in a while, and was super windy both with us and against us. We followed the water mostly and at one point ran through a fish rendering plant, which smelt terrible. After the fish plant we ran through a shipping yard for about a kilometre, which was kind of spooky and strange because of all the cargo.
 
Then, straight uphill, which is where I shine due to my quads of steel. At the 18k mark I considered walking for a bit, but then saw an Icelander holding up the sign “Jack Bauer wouldn’t walk this close to the finish,” which pretty much put me in my place.
 
My goal was to run the whole thing without stopping and I was able to do that, even if it meant spilling Gatorade all over my face a couple of times and a piece of banana in my hair.

I almost missed the whole thing though – I had rented out an alarm clock which, surprise, didn’t go off. I rolled over to check the time roughly 40 minutes before the race began. As I learned during the run, it’s about 4k into town – so I biked that 4k as fast as humanly possible after drinking one litre of chocolate soy milk and eating some cold pönnukökur. Incidentally, we ended up running the same route, which was a bit demoralizing since I biked it pretty fast and when I got to it running I was beyond tired. I ran the half marathon in two hours, fourteen minutes, and thirty-eight seconds.
 
I have no idea if that’s a good or bad time, but I’m just stoked that I never stopped running. I think I ran the 10k mark in one hour and three minutes, or so, so my goal at that point was not to deviate from that 10k pace too much. I also found a strong looking Canadian and told myself to keep pace with her.
 
I’m not sure how anyone runs the full marathon – I know I would have had to start walking if I had to go any further. I’m pretty impressed that you two (mom and dad) did marathons – I’m starting to understand how hard it would be and how great times y’all ran.

Now I’m going back into town (not looking forward to the biking – sore, sore legs and stomach) to eat as much as possible. I’ve got a free pass to the pools for the next day and a half, so I’ll be using those, falling asleep in the hot tubs. Not sure what I’ll be doing for the next few days – the culture fest is on here, so there’s some interesting concerts and art shows.                   

Mostly, I just want to sleep right now, so I’ll probably take a day of serious recovery and snoozing before I make any major plans. I’m thinking of seeing the glacier, especially as I read that Laxness book (People of the Glacier).

Maybe I’ll catch a bus and do a bit of glacier hiking, though physical activity seems ridiculous right now. Loved Iceland.

Nordic Gala Success

The 7th Annual Nordic Gala was held on Saturday, February 20th at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, MN.

The Icelandic Klub of Fargo-Moorhead coordinated the event this year and the theme was ‘‘Nordic Delights!”

Over 200 people attended the event which featured Scandinavian foods, wine tasting, a silent auction and entertainment.

Many traditional Icelandic foods were featured this year. They were presented at the appetizer tables and also the buffet line. There was also a wonderful dessert table with pönnukökur, vínarterta, kleinur, and other sweet treats. The food is always a highlight of the evening and this year, the food was exceptional. A large viking ship ice sculpture added a striking Nordic touch, and a number of people wore their traditional Scandinavian costumes.

My German husband and I had a great time at the event. He especially loved the desserts. Susan Sigurdson Powers, President of the Icelandic Klub, was very happy with the turnout. For part of the program, she read an excerpt about vínarterta from Bill Holm’s book
 
The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth and presented a Northern Lights slideshow with photos by Sigurður Stefnisson. The Oak Grove Middle School Girls Choir sang several selections including an Icelandic folk song. The main entertainment of the evening was opera singer, Mark McLeod. A silent and live auction were held with proceeds being used to support the work of the Nordic Culture Clubs, under the direction of the new director, Lori Paakh.
 
Lögberg-Heimskringla donated several items for the auction and the Icelandic Klub is very appreciative of their support. The Icelandic Klub members involved in this event were: Susan Sigurdson Powers and her husband Tim Powers, Andrea Abrahamson and her daughter, Audri, Jana Abrahamson, Larry Nicholson, Susie Balsdon, Chuck Sorenson, Lon and Diane Volrathl, Russ and Lois Bekkerus, Ima Dinusson, Dennis and Marva Odegaard, Linda Palmer, Jen Holand Nelson, and Connie Olson along with help from members of the other Nordic Culture Clubs.

Each year, the area Nordic Culture Clubs organize this event as a fundraiser for Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival held each June. The Nordic Clubs rotate as coordinators for the event. This year, it was the Icelandic Klub’s turn to be in charge of the festivities. Other clubs in the group include the Red River Danes, Red River Finns, Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge, Saami Circle, and the Swedish Cultural Society.

The 33rd annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival will be held June 25 – 27, 2010 at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead; Iceland is the host country. The theme for the festival will be, Nordic ... Naturally!! and will focus on abundant natural resources of the Nordic countries including the people, foods, traditions, and all natural resources. An Icelandic Boys Choir, Drengakor Reykjavikur, will be performing at the event along with other musical entertainment, dancing, style show, parade of flags, Genealogy Resource Room, 5K and 10K run/walk, community wide children’s choir, Taste of Scandinavia including Amma’s Kitchen, and much more.

The Nordic Culture Clubs have a new website: http://www.nordiccultureclubs.org/  Check out the two Facebook pages for “Nordic Culture Clubs” and “Icelandic Klub of Fargo
Moorhead.” Come and be a FAN!

 

Stories of Selkirk’s pioneers and their heritage

Eight years ago a grandson asked Ken Howard what his father was like. Until then he had given little if any thought to informing his grandchildren about their family’s genealogy, history and heritage, and his daughters had only limited information. To meet this enquiry he wrote memoirs of his father, Louis George Howard for his family.

 Research on his father included exploration of the Manitoba Legislative Library’s microfiches, the Manitoba Legislative Library, Archives of Manitoba and other sources, stirring memories of many friends, neighbours and acquaintances of all ages, from the 1920s onward. He undertook to interview pioneer family members to document the life stories of as many members of Selkirk’s pioneers as he could manage.

Gunnur Isfeld, former editor of Lögberg-Heimskringla drew his attention to a chapter about Selkirk in Saga Íslendinga í Vesturheimi vol 5, edited by Tryggvi J. Oleson, published by Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóðs, Reykjavík, Iceland,1953, and readily translated it for him.

He wrote an article in Lögberg-Heimskringla asking readers if they could provide information on people mentioned in the chapter about whom he had little information. A number of readers responded.

The book contains stories of over 20 Icelandic pioneer families, including his, the Guðmundur Ásmundsson/ Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir family, who settled in Selkirk in 1895.

The book is about 500 pages with stories of some 100 members of Selkirk’s pioneers and 200 photos never previously published. He’s greatly indebted toNelson Gerrard for his encouragement and advice and for permission to quote from his landmark publications Icelandic River Saga and The Icelandic Heritage; to Donald E. Gislason for his thorough research and interpretation of the Kinmount tragedy; and to Sigrid Johnson, Head, Icelandic Collection, University of Manitoba, without whose assistance the Icelandic component of the book would not have been possible.
 
Ken Howard holds an M. A. from the University of Manitoba with a major in French and a minor in History, and an M.A. in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario. Now retired, he’s an Honourary Life Member of the Canadian Psychological Association.

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