Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.05.1986, Page 5

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.05.1986, Page 5
WINNIPEG, FÖSTUDAGUR 23. MAÍ 1986-5 The Icelanders in British Columbia Editor's note: The following arti- cle was written in 1967, so a few numbers mentioned may be out- dated. But itgives a verygood insight into the Icelandic settlement on the west coast of Canada. by Gustaf Tryggvason and Nina Jobin The Icelandic ethnic group in British Columbia has never been a large one. The first official figures available show that in 1902 there were 177 persons of icelandic na- tionality in the province. This figure increased slowly over the next three decades and by 1931 Census returns show 858 persons of Icelandic origin in the province. Thereafter the in- crease in their numbers was more rapid, as indicated by later census returns. Their numbers increased to I, 478 in 1941, 3,557 in 1951 and 5,136 in 1961. By now about 20% of all Icelandic Canadians live in British Columbia. The migration of Icelandic Cana- dians into British Columbia has some general characteristics which are worth mentioning. Firstly, the migra- tion into the province has been a secondary migration. Most of these people had spent many years in other parts of Canada and the United States before coming to British Columbia. Secondly, the majority of those who have arrived have been Canadian or American by birth. In 1961 only 8% of the Icelandic Canadians in the pro- vince had been born in Iceland. Thirdly, the migration has been a dis- tinctly individualistic migration. There is only one instance on record of a group arriving in the province with the intention of setting up an Icelandic colony. The first Icelanders came in the 1880's and most of them settled, either permanently or temporarily, in Victoria. Among these were Olafur (Oliver) and Gudrun Johnson, who arrived around 1888. One of their sons, Byron (Bjorn) Ingimar, born in Victoria in 1890, later became a pro- minent figure in sports, business and politics in British Columbia. He was first elected to the legislature in 1933. In 1947 he became leader of the Liberal party and in that capacity he served as the Premier of the province from 1947 to 1953. Another early set- tler in Victoria was Christian Sivertz. One of his sons, Bent, served in the federal civil service, most recently as the Commissioner for the North West Territories. A third early settler, who arrived shortly after the turn of the century, was SigurdurjChristo- pherson. One of the firSt llcelanders to settle in Canada, he served the government as an immigration agent for many years before settling in Crescent Beach. The first Icelander to settle in the Northern part of the province was T. J. Davidson, who arrived in Prince Rupert from Alberta in 1908. In 1913 a group of about ten families from Manitoba arrived in Prince Rupert enroute to the Queen Charlotte Islands, where they planned to establish an Icelandic colony. The at- tempt failed and these people were then urged to settle on Smith Island in the Skeena River estuary. There they established the village of Osland. By 1925, when the popula- tion was about 70 persons, the village had its own school, post office, store, a branch of the Farmer's Institute and an oil station serving the local fishing fleet. This group tried to preserve some elements of thcir cultural heritage. "Glíma", an old Icelandic form of wrestling, was taught in the school house, which was also used as a com- munity center where chess and card games were played and the regular Saturday night dances were held. A library containing both Icelandic and English titles was established in 1920. The Anglican mission boat, "North- ern Cross", was a regular visitör tö the small settlement. , Salmon fishing was the main joccupation of the settlers. Most of ithem also kept small gardens and rhised a few domestic animals. The Farmer's Institute was of consider- able help in clearing the land. The settlers also made unsuccessful ef- forts to grow fruit and to raise mink. Osland survived the hard years of the 1930's, partly due to the avail- ability of fish and game. During the war years however, people began to move to Prince Rupert, where well- paying jobs were available and where their children could continue their schooling. By 1944 the school had been closed, the store and oil station moved elsewhere and the Farmer's Institute was dissolved. The post of- fice was closed in 1952. Today the village has no permanent inhabitants, though some of the Icelandic families living in Prince Rupert maintain their old homes as summer houses. At about the same time as Osland was being established a man by the name of Halldor Fridleifsson led a small group from Vancouver to Hunter Island, a large island forming the western boundary of Fitz Hugh Sound. By 1920 several families were living in this new settlement and in 1922 a small school was opened. Sal- mon fishing was again the main oc- cupation. In the long-run, however, the settlers were not successful and by the end of the decade of the 1920's they had all returned to other areas. A few Icelanders also settled in other parts of the province. There were some in the Okanagan around 1890 and a small group in Princeton during the 1890's though these stayed only a few years. After the turn of the century there were a few families settling in various towns in the interior, such as Vernon, Kel- owna and Kamloops. Other areas in which Icelanders settled include Golden and Revelstoke (1940's), Campbell River (1920's), the Alber- ni Valley (1940's) and Kitimat (1950’s). These scattered settlements, however, were always quite small and usually short-lived. Since the first settlers came to Victoria the Ice- landers moving into the province have concentrated in the major urban centers, first in Victoria and then, beginning about 1900, in Vancouver. Presently about 90% of all the Icelan- dic Canadians in the province live in the Greater Vancouver area. Vancouver is not only the area in which most of the Icelanders settled after their arrival in British Colum- bia. It is also the place in which almost all of their clubs and organiza- tions were established. The Only Icelandic club set up outside of the Vancouver area was the Icelandic Women's Club of Victoria, estab- lished in the early 1940's. That club has been active in preserving some elements of an Icelandic community life in that city. It has also been a good supporter of the Icelandic old folks home in Vancouver. The first Icelandic society estab- lished in Vancouver was the literary society "Ingolfur”, organized in 1908. The primary objective of this society was the establishment of a library of Icelandic books. The socie- ty also sponsored social gatherings and outings, at first by itself and then, after 1917, in co-operation with the Ladies' Aid "Solskin”. Ingolfur was not a large club, in terms öf mem- bers, but it was one around which much of the life of the Icelandic com- munity revolved. In the 1930's it be- came one of the founding members of the Scandinavian Central Com- mittee. In 1946 it merged with the social club "Isafold", which had been set up in 1940, to form the social-cul- tural society "Strondin". The Ladies' Aid "Solskin" was established in November, 1917, by a group of Icelandic women. The members worked to assist the needy members of the Icelandic qom- munity. During the 1920's these women worked hard on a project to build an Icelandic community center in Vancouver. Property was purchas- ed and money collected for this center. However, during the hard years of the 1930's there were many families and individuals who were in desperate need of assistance. The money collected for the center, as well as the funds realized from the sale of their property, was used to aid them. The ladies of "Solskin” gave of their time and energy, ^s well as money, to the old folks hbme which was established in 1947. Since then the members of "Solskin" have con- tinued to support and work for the old folks home and their contribu- tions towards the success of the home are deeply appreciated. Today as they prepare to celebrate their fif- tieth anniversary, the Ladies of "Solskin" can look back with pride on half a century öf honoured achievements. During the 1930s and 1940's there were many other small groups and clubs active in the Icelandic com- munity. Among these one might name the Icelandic Choir, which later became the choir of the Icelan- dic Lutheran Church; the Icelandic Badminton Club, which was active for many years, and the women's social and charitable club "Ljomalind", which was set up dur- ing the 1930's and which was active for many years. Another organization of importance to the Icelandic com- munity was the Blaine Committee, set up in Í942. This Committee spon- sored the annual Icelandic Day Pic- nic, which is held every summer in the Peace Arch Park in Blaine, on the Canada-United States border. In 1917 the minister serving the Icelandic Church in Blaine began to give service to a small congregation of Icelanders in Vancouver. This con- gretation did not survive, being dis- banded during the early 1930's. In 1941 the Icelandic Synod sent the Rev. Runolfur Marteinsson to Van- couver to establish a new congre- gation. His work met with success and in 1944 the Icelandic Lutheran Church of Vancouver was formally established. In the early 1950's, dur- ing the ministry of Rev. Eirikur Bryn- jolfsson, a building program was in- itiated and completed in 1956 with the dedication of the Icelandic Lutheran Church. During its history the church has been served by many dedicated ministers and laymen. Mention must be made of the mem- bers of the Women's Auxiliary of the church who have worked hard and successfully for their church. In 1963, when the Icelandic Synod merged with the United Lutheran Church of America, the local Icelan- dic Lutheran church became the Lutheran Church of Christ. But the change in the name has not brought about significant changes in the membership of the congregation; most of the members are still of Icelandic origin. Continued on Page 7. Þjóðræknisfélag íslendinga í Vesturheimi FORSETI: OLI NARFASON Gimli, Manitoba ICELANDIC NATIONAL LEAGUE Support the League and its Chapters by joining: MEMBERSHIP: Individuals $3.00 Families $5.00 Mail your cheque to your local Chapter or Lilja Arnason, 1057 Dominion St., Winnipeg, Man. R3E 2P3



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