Today was “Leif Erikson Day”, which commemorates the “discovery of the new world” by the northerners … [+]
Social media has become the platform to reveal other terrible names, to complain and to name others. The final round of the fighting is not about two old whites running for the highest office in the country, but about two old whites who lived centuries apart.
Today was “Leif Erikson Day”, which commemorates the “discovery of the new world” by the Nordic explorer from Iceland, who is said to have settled in “Vinland” – probably today’s Newfoundland. President Calvin Coolidge, while not a public holiday, has reportedly recognized the Vikings’ discovery of North America – but that could have been a way to attract Scandinavian followers to just about anything.
While it seems that the October 9 election on the occasion of Leif Erikson Day is just one way ahead of Columbus Day, the date is actually in recognition of the Restoration that brought the first Norwegian immigrants to America. Apparently the ship arrived in New York Harbor on that day in 1825, and it fell just three days before the October 12th date that Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492.
Quite the legends
There are two different accounts of how Erikson happened to arrive in what is now North America. According to Erik the Red’s sage, it was an accident when Erikson went off course and landed in an explored country. This is of course explored by Northmen.
The second report, based on the saga of the Greenlanders, suggests that Erikson sailed west to see what was out there, much like his father Erik the Red did when he colonized Greenland. Either way, the Northmen arrived as winter came in and stayed for the milder winters – mild was a subjective term as this was still on what is now Canada’s Atlantic coast!
Permanent settlement was probably never considered, but the legends suggest that Erikson and his crew came into contact with Native Americas, whom they called skrælingi – a word also used to describe the indigenous peoples of Greenland. While the relationships between the two groups remain a topic of debate, most agree that they probably weren’t exactly harmonious!
A debate worthy of social media
It seems that the two holidays could – even should – exist. However, a lot of the comments on social media just had to point out that Erikson “landed first” as if that really mattered today.
But then some went a step further and suggested that Columbus’ “discovery” led to genocide and that the Italian explorer was simply there for the riches. It’s a simplified and even historically incorrect assessment, highlighted by a meme that spread quickly.
There were the expected counter-arguments, as the Women of 1000 AD (@ women_1000) Twitter account noted: “Today is #LeifEricksonDay. Lots of people know Leif sailed to North America, mate, did you know before? He had a short one A stay in the Hebrides? He impregnated the teenage daughter of the local chef, but then left her when she wanted to come with him on his travels. “
Some others simply found the concept of another holiday to mark the achievement of a white researcher questionable. Annecagle (@annecagle) tweeted, “It’s another thing we need to celebrate another dead white male explorer without considering Indigenous Peoples Day.”
The feelings were shared by Lakota Man (ALokotaMan1), who shared his thoughts on Twitter: “Discovery is a violent, aggressive, pervasive act. / What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.”
Fortunately, most of the comments were of the SpongeBob SquarePants variety – since Leif Erikson Day is apparently the anthropomorphic cartoon sponge’s favorite holiday alongside April Fool’s Day. Perhaps this is the best way to remember the day – rather than by trying to build or tear down the lesser known explorer to “discover” the New World.