In 1872 when Richard Burton visits Iceland, he says
The stories in What The Bear Said are set in one or more of these three worlds.
The World In Between
The world in between. That was the world of my great great grandparents, those people who could legitimately claim to be Icelandic while living in Canada. Born in Iceland, emigrating, And then adapting and integrating them with the world of New Iceland.
bringing with them memories of Icelandic life and landscape, Icelandic ways of thinking and believing, Icelandic traditions.
The theme of the Brandon INL annual conference was
Photos by W. D. Valgardson
The vikings will be on the hill at Gimli. In their chain mail and metal helmets. They
When people emigrate, they bring with them the memory of their homeland. They bring with them religion, values, sets of behaviours. They have experienced life within their country and culture. They bring with them what they know. What they come to is the unfamiliar. For the Icelandic settlers the unfamiliar was forests, bitterly cold weather, water that froze to six feet, large wild animals, building with wood.
Once in Canada, a normal survival mechanism for every immigrant group is to live close together. That way, the shock of the new is alleviated somewhat. For Icelanders, their new communities were in New Iceland and in the West End of Winnipeg. There, they could speak Icelandic, eat Icelandic food, attend Icelandic churches, socialize with people like themselves.
These centres, created and bound by need, are not stable. Shortage of good land, greater opportunities, growing security in the new world, all of these cause some people to seek other places to live. First, one or two leave, find a place such as Argyle in Manitoba where the land was better for farming, they notify friends and relatives who then follow them.
For two years, I was the editor of the bi-weekly newspaper called L
The Kaffi Tima choir welcomes the multitude.
Embrace your heritage. That was the rallying cry of the 93rd Icelandic National League convention.
I drove for three days from Victoria, BC to Brandon, Manitoba. To embrace his heritage, Henry Bjornsson drove from Seattle. Claire Eckley was late coming from Minneapolis because she was caught in a storm. Joan Cadham Eyolfsson and friends came from Foam Lake. The gathering of the clan was taking place.
In Brandon, Harold and Norma Jonasson, along with Bob Isleifson and the club volunteers, were taking care of the last details, preparing for over 170 attendees.
Over a year in the making, the convention was coming together.
At conventions, food matters and the free breakfasts that had been arranged were outstanding. I was fed ham and cheese omelets, vegetable omelets, light breakfasts of peach yogurt with fruit. The coffee was good enough to please even Icelanders, the world
The most memorable moments are often spontaneous, unforeseen, unexpected, flashes in time when something happens that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Today, that happened at the Frelsis (Liberty) Lutheran Church of Grund.
The day started inauspiciously with overnight rain, large puddles on the parking lot of the Victoria Inn in Brandon, Manitoba. The sky was heavy with grey clouds and no more than a small blue opening with the sun shining through.
We crowded onto the bus that the INL Brandon chapter had arranged to take us on a tour of the Icelandic settlement areas. There was an overflow crowd so cars were also filling up. They would follow us as we wove our way through a labyrinth of country roads.
We first stopped at the Skalholt graveyard. A small area of grass enclosed with metal poles and chain link fencing, it sits alongside heavy scrub bush, thin, ragged poplar trees just starting to leaf out, a few scruffy firs. Just before the graveyard, the land has been cleared and its rolling surface is ready for planting. The bus driver tells me that this is potato country, that just one area supplies all the potatoes for McDonald