Leif Landed First

Scandinavians Proclaim: "Leif Landed First!"
by Sam Johnson


    That's what my t-shirt says, and I'll be wearing it this week along with my button that says "Take A Liking to A Viking!"
I'm not talking about the hapless Minnesota Vikings, but the victorious VIKINGS of old!

    You see, throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and all across this great land of ours where Americans of Scandinavian heritage live together and fraternize, lefse, lutefisk, potet klubb, rosettas and krumkake will be consumed with great celebration to commemorate a very special event.

     The occasion is a special one for many Norwegian-Americans, ranking second only to "settende mai" or perhaps third behind "jul."
I'm referring to the celebrations that will take place the week of Oct. 9th, the day that is officially proclaimed by mayors, governors and even presidents as "LEIF ERICKSON DAY!"

     In case you have forgotten your history or have lived a misinformed life under the influence of that insidious Italian jingo --"In fourteen hundred an' a ninety-two, Colombo he sail the ocean blue, an' discover America for me an' you."-- the truth of the matter is Leif Erickson discovered America first!

Leif Erickson Resources

Check out the site below for more information and links to resources about "Leif Erikson Day" and Vikings in America.
Viking Resources Web Link

    In official recognition of this fact then, Oct. 9th is set aside to commemorate this achievement, which, as it happens, is appropriately celebrated before Christopher Columbus Day on Oct. 10th.
In the event you have forgotten your history, here's the true account of how Leif Erickson was the first to discover America, as chronicled in the "Graenlendinga Saga" of old.


     It all started in 982 when a man known as Eric the Red was banished from Iceland, a Viking settlement, for killing a man.

     He spent his banishment in exploration, and in so doing discovered the icebound land he called Greenland. He named it Greenland to attract Viking settlers. And it worked, for soon there was a colony established there. (Some say this made Eric "Boy-have-I-got-a-deal-for-you" the Red the first land promoter).

     Bjarni Herjolfsson was one of the new Greenland settlers who followed Eric to the land of promise around 986. But he was blown off his course, past his destination, and ended up sighting unknown lands in the process. He made his way back to Greenland to report what he had seen.

     Word of his sightings spread and caught the fancy of a young Viking, Leif, son of Eric the Red. Leif asked his father to lead an expedition to this new land, but Eric said he was too old for the hardships of such explorations. So Leif took the job upon himself and set sail in 992 with a crew of 35 in the same boat Bjarni had used.

     He first encountered an island of stone he named "Helluland" which means "Stoneland" (probably Baffin Island). Then he reached land covered with trees which he called "Markland" or "Forestland" (probably Labrador).

     Finally, he discovered a land rich in grape vines and wild game. He called the land "Vinland."

     Leif returned to Greenland, rescuing some shipwrecked sailors he encountered on the way back. When he arrived home he related what he had seen and done and from then on was called "Leif the Lucky."

     Leif Erickson helped organize and lead a group of settlers back to the riches of Vineland, but settlements there were not as successful as in Greenland and Iceland, and no further mention is made of them in the sagas.


      The exact location of Vineland is uncertain, though the sagas, as well as archaeological findings by Dr. Helge and Ann Stine Ingstad in Newfoundland, confirm that Norsemen landed in and attempted to settle North America around 1000 A.D.
Some historians even claim that they may have settled in the northern New England states where grapes such as those mentioned in the sagas grow abundantly.
     But whatever the location, historians agree that Vikings landed in America 500 years before Christopher Columbus and that the existing body of knowledge from those Viking explorations probably helped Columbus plan his voyage to the New World.
Of course the sons of Norway have known this all along, and that's why during the week of Oct. 9th, they will lift a glass of 
aquavit  to "skål" the accomplishments of Lucky Leif Erickson, and hold feasts and celebrations in his honor.

Subpages (1): Viking Resources