Where did the Icelandic-Norse explorer Leif Erikson land when he first arrived in North America?

And the answer: Canada.    
Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus .

In the year 1000, almost five centuries earlier than Columbus, Leif Erikson landed in "Vinland," now modern-day Newfoundland, Canada. The Vikings referred to their settlement as "Vinland" due to the impressive vines and vegetation they discovered.

Move over, Christopher Columbus—Leif Erikson is here to claim his spot as the first European explorer to reach North America. In the age when the Vikings ruled Scandinavia, one young man sought to make his own name in the world: Leif Erikson. Born to explorer Erik the Red, who incidentally was responsible for the discovery of Greenland, Leif Erikson was raised with the expectation that he, too, would discover the world. His father raised him with the necessary skills to become an explorer, such as navigation and leadership, before Leif Erikson set off with a crew of 35 to explore the western seas.

Without maps or a compass, Erikson sailed through uncharted waters. Eventually, he landed in a place he dubbed “Vinland”—a part of what we now know to be North America. As word of his travels spread, other Norwegian explorers made the journey to Vinland, even making contact with the Indigenous people. Norse settlements peppered Vinland, though most didn’t last. Significantly, Norwegian people were earning a reputation for these journeys, which spread toward Europe rapidly.

Hundreds of years later, Norwegian immigration to America officially began in 1825 with a group of Quakers, led by Cleng Peerson. Seeking to escape a law called the “konventikkelplakaten,” which prohibited them from meeting as a congregation or religious community, this initial wave of immigration marks the first official beginning of Norwegian settlement in North America. From then on, Norse communities in Canada and the United States began to form with abundance, where many remain now.

Did you know?

Yesterday, October 9, was Leif Erikson Day! Today, around 11 million Americans today can trace their ancestry to Nordic countries (a remarkable number, considering that the combined population of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden amounts to just over 21 million today).

Learn more about Leif Erikson and the history of Nordic migration here.

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