By Ken Kristjanson, Winnipeg, MB
On a recent visit to Gramma’s old house, the new owner showed me what the cat had dragged in. Literally. It was a young weasel. As a young man, I was lucky to trap a weasel on what is now Willow Island. I well remember the beautiful white fur much prized by furriers. Fortunately, seeing one in town is rather rare – this first cousin of the mink is a viscous carnivore. As a teenager growing up in Gimli, I and many other boys would catch muskrats and other fur-bearing creatures for extra spending money using traps and snares. My friend Pogo Isfjord was particularly well-known for his prowess at snaring rabbits.
My afi (grandfather) told us kids a story about a weasel that he encountered at our fishing station on Humbug Bay in late fall, sometime in the early 1930s. It was the time before outboard motors were in general use. This meant that the men would row out from the station and set their nets and then, sometime later, they would row back and lift their nets. This happened in all kinds of weather. Generally, the fishermen would be in close proximity to the station.
Nets in those days were anchored by rocks. Large boulders would have stout rope wrapped around them and then they would be tied to the net, thus anchoring one end of the net. The same procedure would be employed at the other end of the net. As it happened this October day, one of the fishermen at the station had lost a rock and needed to row in to shore to find a replacement. As he approached the shore to get another boulder, he saw a murder of crows making an awful racket.
The fisherman beached his yawl and began investigating to see what the fuss was about. He discovered a mature weasel with its leg caught in an old rabbit snare. The bronze wire was attached securely to a small branch. The harder the weasel pulled, the tighter the wire grabbed its leg. From what the fisherman could surmise this life and death struggle had been going on for a while. The weasel lay exhausted from trying to free itself from the wire. The crows, sensing a free meal, swooped in. But the weasel was not done in yet and was able to grab one of the crows. After making a meal of the crow, the weasel spotted its next problem – a fisherman approaching. The fisherman had the same idea as the crows. He determined this would be a fine pelt. The weasel wanted none of this new adversary and, with newfound strength, no doubt egged on by the noisy crows, he finally broke free of the twig and vanished into the underbrush, trailing the wire behind.
A few days later, the weasel with the trailing wire showed up while the men were dressing their catch. Having escaped the wire trap, the crows, and the fur-seeking fisherman, the weasel had earned a reprieve from those at the station. The fishers often overcame long odds in their small boats on the big lake and they sort of adopted the scrappy little weasel. In the Icelandic way of giving nicknames, the weasel was named “Wired.” He hung around all fall, enjoying the delicious fish bits that regularly came his way. It got so that the men looked for the creature when they came ashore. The weasel did not disappoint them and he would take up his spot near the dressing tables – not too close – waiting for the tasty scraps.
Photo: Jana M. Cisar / USFWS
By Dennis Oleson, Brandon, MB
The Icelandic Canadian Club of Western Manitoba, often referred to as the Brandon Club, has been fairly busy over the summer and accomplished a number of things. We donated two $300 scholarships to students furthering their education at a post-secondary institution. On June 17th, we had a small gathering with cake, coffee and ice cream at a member’s home to celebrate Iceland’s independence from Denmark on June 17, 1944. Time during the summer was also spent organizing a fish fry fundraiser that was held on September 29th, when about 200 people enjoyed a meal of pan-fried Lake Winnipeg pickerel.
For the first time since Snorri West started, the Brandon Club took direct part in the program. On July 19th and 20th, we showed the Snorri West participants what some of the southwestern part of Manitoba was all about.
Right: The Snorri West Participants after the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police (RCMP) Musical Ride in Neepawa MB.
On the 19th, after arriving from Winnipeg, they were taken on a horse-drawn wagon ride to experience the desert-like terrain of the Carberry Sandhills in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, also known as the Spirit Sands.
Left: Sanding the toes in the Carberry Desert Spirit Sands.
From there they went on to visit the Frelsis (Liberty) Lutheran Church at Grund (RM of Argyle), which is not only the oldest standing Icelandic Church in Canada, but it is still in use today. The church was built in 1889 by immigrant Icelanders near Baldur, Manitoba. This, along with a short trip to the Skalholt Icelandic Cemetery, provided a bit of Icelandic immigrant history for our guests.
After that, it was off to Neepawa, where they watched and enjoyed the Canadian showpiece called the RCMP Musical Ride. Several pictures were taken with our guests in close proximity to the horses and their riders.
The next day, July 20th, we showed them several of the attractions around Brandon, including the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum and the Brandon Cultural Museum, which contains a taxidermy collection of a great many of the animals indigenous to the province. This part of the museum seemed to be especially interesting to our guests, particularly in terms of picture taking.
Right: Snorri West participants at Grund Church with some ICCWM members and the fine people who showed it to us.
As the final part of their Brandon stay, the 2016 Snorri Westers journeyed to Minnedosa, where they visited a heritage village. After that, our guests were able to take part in an evening of dragon boat practice exercises on Lake Minnedosa. The exercises were being held in preparation for the 2016 Canadian Cancer Society Dragon Boat Challenge that took place in Winnipeg on September 9th and 10th. This rather strenuous boating activity, at which I was told our guests excelled, was followed by a swim in the lake.
At right: Snorri Westers being shown how to row, row, row, your dragon boat. Middle of the lake at left.
A planned wiener roast had to be cancelled due to rain, so the Snorri Westers had a quiet evening with their billets before their trip to Gimli the next morning.
Needless to say, we greatly enjoyed our first experience in hosting the Snorri West group and look forward to doing so again. We want to thank the Icelandic National League of North America, its Snorri West Program, and especially the 2016 Snorri West participants for providing us with a very pleasurable two days in July.
Below: The RCMP Musical Ride is always impressive, even when it is 30 degrees Celcius.
My Leonard Cohen performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_QXW8ykKpc
Searching For New Iceland Part 1: Celebrating June 17 In Toronto:
The headline made my heart skip a beat: “One week left to save the Norwegian American Weekly.” The last surviving Norwegian American newspaper, out of the hundreds that once existed, the Norwegian American Weekly has a publishing history that reaches back to 1889. In other words, it’s almost as old as Lögberg-Heimskringla. It’s an institution in the Norwegian American community.
On the surface, the Norwegian American Weekly seemed so vibrant and successful. It has eight times as many subscribers as Lögberg-Heimskingla. It enjoys a strong network of contributors, who, with the paper’s staff, produce 47 high-quality issues each year. It attracts more advertising that we do. Yet it was nevertheless in trouble.
At the end of January, the Norwegian American Foundation, which owns the paper, informed the staff that they would be producing its last issue in February. Noting that “tough times for newspapers has led to a decline in subscriptions and advertising,” the paper’s management concluded that they must “announce its immediate closure,” even as they searched for potential buyers to take over its operation.
So the paper turned to Indiegogo in an effort to crowdfund its very survival. By the end of April, NAW had raised $30,051 USD through this innovative new means. And an anonymous benefactor agreed to match contributions up to $5,000. Among the perks offered to contributors were “copies of the ‘final’ issue of the newspaper, which was printed but never distributed during NAW’s brush with death.”
While this crowdfunding campaign appears to have saved the Norwegian American Weekly from immediate closure, and even though subscriptions and advertising sales have increased, the paper is still vulnerable. It is safe for the moment, but it’s not out of the woods.
Needless to say, I wish them well. I hope not only for their survival, but for a new prosperity amidst difficult conditions. There are so many parallels between the Norwegian American Weekly and Lögberg-Heimskringla that it is impossible to avoid viewing NAW’s success or failure as a portent of our own paper’s prospects.
Now, I’m not prepared to push the panic button – but I am watching the dashboard very closely. I’m scanning the road ahead in an effort to discern where Lögberg-Heimskringla must go if it is to serve new generations of readers and help to keep Icelandic culture alive and vital here in North America. These are perilous times for newspapers of all types, but the terrain is especially difficult for small newspapers serving geographically-dispersed eth-nic communities. Our survival is not guaranteed and yet I remain convinced of this paper’s importance and quietly optimistic about its future. Lögberg-Heimskringla (like its august predecessors) has always been a shoestring operation, but we’ve made it work for 129 years. Our past vitality required hard work and devotion; the same is true today.
I think it was wise and prudent for the Norwegian American Weekly to turn to crowdfunding in an effort to secure the additional capital it needed to continue operating. I commend its leaders for refusing to let pride get in the way of doing what needed to be done. By the same token, I don’t want to wait for our paper to have to try the same technique.
L-H relies upon the devoted support of the Icelandic North American community. In return, we strive to offer a high-quality product, which is both entertaining and informative. We need a growing number of people to subscribe to L-H and remember to renew, to buy gift subscriptions for family and friends, or to donate subscriptions to their local library. We need those who can afford it to contribute over and above their subscription price – it’s tax deductible! – either as monthly donors or on a one-time basis. It would be nice if those who have been richly blessed would even remember L-H in their wills.
We need professionals and business people of Icelandic heritage to take out advertisements, which obviously support our publication while letting Icelandic North Americans know about our rich network of commerce. We need golfers to come out to the Icelandic Open each year (and businesses to sponsor holes) and we need beer drinkers to join us on Bjórdagur. We need people with new fundraising ideas to join our cadre of volunteers and contribute their talents.
And we need our readers to dare to write – to send us news stories and features, reminiscences and reflections, which will enrich others precisely because we all love to tell our personal sagas and immerse ourselves in the sagas of others. Yes, we need you. You and your generous support. And we like to think that you may well need what L-H brings to your life. It’s that simple.
Our board chair, Peter Johnson, likes to say that Icelanders are known for “punching above their weight.” That’s how our paper and our other community organizations have prospered in the past, against all odds; that’s how they’ll continue to prosper into the future. We’re not looking for a knock-out punch; like the Norwegian American Weekly, we’re simply looking to stay in the ring.
Author: Stefan Jonasson
Whatever else you do on June 19th this year, set aside a little time to celebrate one of the great milestones in the fight for women’s equality. It was on June 19, 1915 that Icelandic women won the right to vote in elections for Alþingi, the country’s parliament. Although it was a limited franchise – only women 40 years of age or older received the vote – it was nevertheless a real accomplishment after a struggle that had lasted for some three decades. Shortly after Iceland became a sovereign state in 1918, the age limitation was removed and women were enfranchised on the same basis as men.
The campaign had begun in earnest in 1885, when Valdimar Ásmundsson, the editor of a new magazine called Fjallkonan, wrote an article on the enfranchisement of women. Three years later, he married Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir, the pioneer leader of the women’s movement in Iceland, and together they championed the cause of equality between women and men.
As early as 1882, widows and single women of independent means had received the right to vote in municipal elections and, in 1907, this right was extended to all women. In 1894, the Icelandic Women’s Association was founded with the expressed purpose of achieving political equality and winning the vote for women. The following year, Bríet established her own newspaper, Kvennablaðið (The Women’s Magazine), as a vehicle for domestic and educational reform.
In 1907, Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir launched the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, saying, “The experience of the last fifty years or so has proven to women elsewhere in the world that in order to establish equality between men and women and gain full political citizenship for women, only one thing is essential, that thing being the cornerstone for all other women’s rights; that thing is political rights: women’s suffrage and women’s eligibility in politics. All other rights are derived from this.”
The following year, Bríet was elected to the Reykjavík town council, along with three other women, on a women’s slate. She served until 1911 and then again from 1913 to 1919. In 1916, she became the first woman to stand for a seat in Alþingi as a candidate for the Home Rule Party, but she was defeated.
The first woman to successfully compete for a seat in Alþingi was Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason, who was a leading educator and principal of Kvennaskólinn (The Women’s School) in Reykjavík. She was elected to Alþingi in 1922 as the leader of Kvennalistinn (The Women’s List). In subsequent elections, she was returned as a member of the Conservative party (Íhaldsflokkurinn), retiring from the Alþingi in 1930. She was vice president of the upper chamber of Alþingi from 1925 to 1927.