There is a measuring cup of water on the table. I’m a pessimist by nature and when I look at it I automatically think, that glass is half empty. However, Atli, our Consul General, is by nature an optimist and when he looks at that same glass he automatically thinks, that glass is half full.
I have embarked on what I call an archeological search for my Icelandic heritage. Not in Iceland but here, in Canada. From Coast to Coast. What is that heritage and what evidence of it exists?
Atli in his farewell speech at the Arborg Thorrablot gave me places to search. They are not all graveyards.
Atli believes, and is very persuasive in his belief, that the Icelandic community in Canada is alive and well. He so firmly believes this after nine years in Winnipeg that when he and þruður return to Iceland, it is their intent to travel around the country, speaking in every village and town, telling them about us, about these Western Icelanders. These Western Icelanders he calls “These good people.”
He is going to tell Icelanders that some of us still speak and sing Icelandic.
He is going to tell them that we have Icelandic clubs.
He is going to tell them that we have Thorrablots.
He is going to tell them that we still eat Icelandic food.
He is going to tell them that we have proven our devotion to the Icelandic department at the University of Manitoba.
He is going to tell them what wonderful people we are and how we have welcomed them and many other Icelanders into our communities.
He had more evidence of our Icelandic culture. However, I was writing by hand and couldn’t keep up with all of his points. I’m sure he will add those that I’ve missed.
I will use his points to dig for evidence of our Icelandic heritage. I will ask about how many people still speak and sing in Icelandic. I hope that it is many and that those people are spread across Canada.
I’m going to pay attention to what Icelandic clubs there are and what they are up to.
I’ll read LH for evidence of the vitality of our Thorrablots.
I’ll dig around to see how many people still make and eat Icelandic food.
I’ll have to talk to Birna and PJ and Sigrid about the Icelandic department and the Icelandic library.
I’ll have to see what I can learn about all the Icelandic visitors that come to Canada.
These, and institutions like Logberg-Heimskringla, are our living identity.
Pessimist that I am, I’m still heartened by the work that has been done in Riverton and the work that is going to be done.
I’m greatly heartened by the work being done in Arborg on the heritage village.
I’m heartened when I see the bookshelves in Tergesen’s bookstore that hold Icelandic books and books by authors with an Icelandic background.
I’m heartened when I go into the Reykjavik Bakery and see Icelandic brown bread for sale.
I’m heartened every time I see another book by an Icelandic North American author or authors published.
So, there are reasons for hope. At the same time, when I go home to Gimli and I see so little evidence of things Icelandic in daily life, when I go to the West End of Winnipeg and see that it no longer has an Icelandic identity, when I go by the building that used to house the Jon Bjarnason academy, when I see that there is no longer any demand for the books that were so precious that our ancestors brought them in their trunks, I feel that the glass is half empty.
However, Atli gives this pessimist hope. After I talk to him, I can say, that glass is half full. I’m probably being unreasonable but I guess what I want is for the glass to be not half-full but full.
For me, the pillars of the community are Logberg-Heimskringla/The Icelandic Connection, the Icelandic Department and Library, and the INL. They are major archeological sites. They are major proof of our existence past and present.
I do not mean to ignore or dismiss our American compatriots. I have not included them because I don’t know enough about them to comment. For that we need someone in the US to write us and tell us what evidence there is of our existence.