A painting depicting the voyage
of Leif Erikson
President Lyndon Johnson declared October 9 to be "Leif Erikson Day",
in 1964, in honor of his extraordinary journey to North America sometime around
the year 1000. Not long before, excavations at the site of L'Anse aux Meadows,
Newfoundland, had revealed evidence of the presence of Scandinavian settlers,
confirming the tales told in 13th- and 14th-century sagas.
Today, 44 years later, the tradition continues; President Bush has issued a
proclamation naming October 9, 2008, as Leif Erikson Day, and calling "upon
all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and
programs to honor our rich Nordic-American heritage."
Leif Erikson was born of Norwegian descent around 970 CE in Iceland. It is
thought that his father and grandfather were outlaws and explorers around Scandinavia
and Greenland. His father founded two settlements in Greenland. Leif had two
brothers and one sister. He married a woman named Thorgunna and they had one
son, called Thorkell Leifsson.
Leif Erikson went to Norway to work for King Olaf I of Norway. During his stay,
he converted to Christianity. When he returned to Island, he bought a boat and,
in 1003, set out to explore the land west of Greenland that had been discovered
by Bjarni Herjolfsson, and older explorer. The land that he had discovered was
actually Newfoundland, which is now part of Canada. The 'Saga of the Greenlanders'
tells of his adventures.
It is thought that he visited Baffin Island and Labrador and settled on the
Northern part of the island of Newfoundland, now all part of Canada. There are
speculations that Leif Erikson or later explorers may have traveled into the
area that is now Minnesota in the United States. Some controversial archaeological
finds, such as the Kensington Runestone and the Maine Penny, support this theory,
but it is not considered proven.
October 9 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day that the ship
Restauration arrived in New York from Stavanger, Norway on October 9, 1825.
This was the start of organized immigration from Scandinavia to the USA. The
date is not associated with an event in Leif Erikson's life.