Leif returns

Adam Randell
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L’Anse au Meadows statue commemorating Leif Ericson unveiled

It's been more than a 1,000 years in the making but Leif Ericson has returned to Vinland. The first European to discover North America has been immortalized in the form of a 10-foot high bronze statue. It is one of 10 in North America.

With statue replicates of the monument in Seattle, Greenland, Norway and now Newfoundland, Leif's Europe to North America connection has been completed.

To mark the unveiling a weekend of events were planned. It included food, activities, a book launch and music.

But the big day was on July 28 when the strings were pulled and there stood Leif, overlooking all that he had discovered - probably the very location he stood all those years ago (at least one hopes).

It was donated by the Leif Ericson International Foundation and cost approximately $40,000 to make.

The statue was made in the United States, a plaque stone came from Iceland - the birthplace of Leif. Newfoundland stakeholders provided the concrete mounting.

The whole movement to have the bronze statue in Newfoundland was something that started in 1991 by Rolf Grankvist, Professor and Dean Emeritus of the Department of Education, NTNU (Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskap Universitet), Trondheim, Norway.

Grankvist thought that a special connection bonding Europe and North America through Leif's travels would be very fitting.

As a visiting professor in Seattle, Washington, in 1994, he met with Kristine Leander.

"He casually suggested Seattle should find a way to give a statue to Trondheim, since Seattle is one of the10 cities in North America that has a statue," Leander said. "I said sure no problem, then I woke up in the middle of the night wondering how we would go about accomplishing something like that."

That was when the plaques concept came about. Nameplate purchases would be used to pay for the statue.

Three years later, 1997, Leif was unveiled overlooking Trondheim.

"The concrete for the statue wasn't dry, when this man (Grankvist) started nagging us about Greenland, so three years later we were in Greenland unveiling a statue that stood high above that famous harbor where Leif left on his historic journey to North America," Leander said. "With Norway and Greenland under our belts, we were pretty confident that we needed a statue for L'Anse au Meadows."

Leander said the statues are meant to instill all that Leif represented.

To the Scandinavians he's a symbolic character, stating that every culture has a story - sometimes true, sometimes mythical - about the first person of their clan.

"What Adam and Eve are to the biblical creation, what Abraham is to the Jews, Leif Ericson is to Scandinavian immigrants and their descendants," she said.

But it also speaks to the spirit of the immigrant, which is aptly worded with the statue's slogan: "Their footprints our path."

"We view him with traits of courage, risk taking, a taste for hardship, the ability to change course with a new wind and take new opportunity," Leander said.

"We honour him as the symbolic ancestor of our own immigration story. Who he was or who we think he is, echoes with who we want to be."

The only shortcoming with the unveiling was the Iceland stone was too small for the plaques.

It wasn't a problem for Leander though it was an opportunity.

"Keeping with the Viking like traits, the ability to change course when a new wind comes up, we are using this problem to our advantage," she said. "We are looking to get a larger piece of (stone) and we'll be back here in a year to install a new plaque with the names of donors."


Organizations: Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskap Universitet, Leif Ericson International Foundation, Department of Education

Geographic location: Trondheim, North America, Iceland Newfoundland Greenland Seattle United States Europe Seattle, Washington Norway

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