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500 Years Before Christopher Columbus, Viking Leif Erickson landed in North America

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Who Discovered America?

Who Discovered America?

Vikings In America

Vikings In America

Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson Early Life

Using the sagas, The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eric the Red, along with archaeological evidence, shows the Vikings were, in fact, the discoverers of North America some 500 years before Columbus. But, since the Indigenous peoples were already here, who really was first?

Different theories remain a mystery. Was it those who crossed the Bering Strait, the Clovis people, the Chinese, or the Polynesians?

Leif Erikson was born in Iceland in 970 to Eric the Red (960-1003) and Thordhild in Iceland. Circumstances forced Eric and his family to flee to Greenland and establish a settlement. Leif was just three years old when the family moved to Greenland. He and his brothers Thorvald and Thorstein were raised in Greenland. The search for land was foremost in the Viking way of life.

In 986, Norseman Bjarni Herjolfson spotted land west of Greenland when he was blown off course on his return to Greenland. He shared this information with Leif sometime later. In 1000 Leif and a crew of thirty-five set sail west with no map, only the direction to head west. The crew first landed on Baffin Island, finding nothing but rocks and flat stones. Heading further south to Markland, then to Vinland. They set up temporary settlements to wait out the winter, Skraelings, or 'wretched' people. Before long, skirmishes became a constant threat coupled with the harsh weather they endured. Leif decided to return to Greenland with his crew facing the treacherous trip home.


Indigenous Natives, Skraelings

Indigenous Natives, Skraelings

Viking Voyages to North America

Viking Voyages to North America

Thorvald Erikson, Brother of Leif

Thorvald Erikson was determined to sail to Vinland and set up a settlement following Leif's attempt. Thorvald set sail with a crew of thirty men to establish a settlement in Vinland. The explorers would spend about two years in Vinland, constantly harassed by Indigenous warfare. In one particular battle, Thorvald was fatally wounded and died about1006. He was the first European to die in North America.

The Vikings realized they did not have enough men to defend their settlement, and it was decided to return to Greenland.

Evidence of Vikings Settlement

In 1960, Norwegian explorer, Heige Ingstad and his wife Anne Steine, archaeologist excavated and authenticated the site of L'Anse aux Meadows as a Viking settlement dating it to 1000. In 1978, L'Anse aux Meadows named UNESCO World Heritage Site. Carbon dating puts the dates 990-1050.

Leif Erikson Day October 9th

It was first acknowledged by President Calvin Coolidge in Minnesota in 1925 to declare Leif Erikson Day as the first European to discover America. However, until 1964 President Clinton issued Proclamation #7358 to declare Leif Erikson Day officially recognized as October 9th. This day was chosen because of the ship Restauration's arrival in 1825, bringing the first Norwegians arriving in New York. They began their settlement in Kendall, New York.

Today, there are over twenty-seven life-like statues of Leif Erikson around the world. Most acknowledging him as the first to discover America. The oldest statue erected was in Boston, Massachusetts 1887. Other major cities where statues have been erected are Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois, St. Paul, Minnesota, Los Angeles, California, and Duluth, Minnesota. A complete list of statues can be found at vanderkrogt.net.

1887 Boston Statue of Leif Erikson

1887 Boston Statue of Leif Erikson

Replica of Ship Restauration 1825

Replica of Ship Restauration 1825

A Mystery Still Today

It is still a mystery of who really was here first, and perhaps it will never be determined. It seems it should be the ancestors of the Indigenous people but which ones? Historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough wrote the book, Beyond the Northland as she researched the Norse sagas.

The Indigenous people of North America included the Beothuk, the Dorset, the Thule, the Inuit, and the Eskimo. But again, who was first?

The Norse and the Scandinavians strive to keep their culture alive and have organizations like the Sons of Norway, a fraternal organization to honor their ancestors.

The Commemorative one-dollar silver coin minted by the U.S. showing a Viking ship on one side with the inscription on the reverse side" Founder of the New World."

Stamp for Both Discoverers

Stamp for Both Discoverers

Leif Erikson Coin

Leif Erikson Coin

Sources Used

www. norwayheritage.com

www.canadianencyclopedia.ca

www.historynow.com

www.jstor.org

www.cdnhistorybits.wordpress.com

www.leiferikson.org


Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 14, 2021:

I certainly agree with you. I'm sure you are proud of your heritage, and rightly so. Thanks for visiting.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 14, 2021:

An interesting read, Fran. I am from Viking heritage so I believe Leif Erickson was at least the first European to land in North America.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 14, 2021:

Thanks for your visit Joanne, truly appreciated it!

Joanne Hayle from Wiltshire, U.K. on June 11, 2021:

Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed and learned, what more could you ask?!

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 08, 2021:

Thanks for reading Doug, I truly appreciate it. I will check out your book suggestion.

Doug West from Missouri on June 08, 2021:

Good article. If you want to see some Viking writings in the middle of the country, you can go to Heavener Runestone Park in Oklahoma. I've been there and it is very interesting and the scenery is dramatic. The stone writings have been attributed to around 1000 AD. You can read about it in the book "In Plain Sight: Our World Records in Ancient America" by Gloria Farley.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 08, 2021:

Pamela, thanks for reading. I too learned facts while researching. Thanks again!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 07, 2021:

I didn't know there was a Leif Erikson Day, although I remember learning about him in school. You filled in a lot of facts I didn't know however. This is a very interesting article, Fran.

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