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    Until 13 October Minneapolis, MN: Leifur Eiriksson Celebration. The 28th Annual Leif Eriksson International Festival (L.E.I.F.), celebrating Nordic cultural roots Read More
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Meet the friendly falcons of the Westfjords

 Photo credit: screenshot from a video by Birkir Rafnsson Author: Magnús Sveinn Helgason, Reykjavík, Iceland

Historically one of the most prized exports of Iceland were gyrfalcons. During the Middle Ages, Icelandic falcons (Falco rusticolus islandicus) were considered prized possessions of European kings and nobility. The gyrfalcon is the largest of the falcon species. It breeds on Arctic coasts and the islands of North America, Europe, and Asia. One-fourth of the entire European gyrfalcon population is believed to live in Iceland. Currently the Icelandic population, which has been protected since 1940, numbers between 300 and 400 adult nesting pairs.
Most of the falcon population of Iceland lives in Northeast Iceland, with the Jökulsárgljúfur river canyon being one of its key habitats, but these majestic birds also live in the Westfjords, where a video was shot by Birkir Rafnsson.
Magnificent birds and efficient hunters


Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE: Through the Great Depression and World War II

  Author:Karen Botting, Winnipeg, MB

1926 to 1935
In the 25th anniversary booklet of the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter of IODE, it was recorded that, “During the late Twenties and the early Thirties, a number of chapters of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire turned in their charter, for now that the war was over they felt their duty done, their purpose served. Not so with the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter. There was still work to be done. Our soldiers in hospitals, forgotten by many, made it all the more essential that the hospital visiting and providing of little extras, which mean so much to people shut in by illness, be continued. The chapter assisted a number of families over periods of sickness and unemployment.”
Shortly after organizing, the chapter began supplying reading matter to men in lumber camps and others living in districts remote from libraries and newsstands. This work continued during the late ’20s and ’30s. Books and clothing were sent to outlying school districts and Christmas cheer to Icelandic patients in the sanitoriums at Ninette and St. Boniface and to those in the “Old Folks Home,” Betel, at Gimli, Manitoba.
These were the years of the Great Depression. Few countries were affected as severely as Canada, particularly in the prairies, which were crippled by drought. Throughout the Depression, IODE chapters opened relief centres and worked with public welfare departments to provide food, clothing, and medical care. The Jon Sigurdsson Chapter was no different and contributed to the work of the provincial organization and co-operated with such charitable organizations as the Personal Service Bureau, the Good Neighbors Club and the Institute for the Blind, in their work for those less fortunate in our community.


On being at home

  Author:Elizabeth Philips, Saskatoon, SK

An address at the Betel Home Foundation 100th Anniversary Gala Dinner – September 26, 2015
It is a privilege to be your dinner speaker tonight. I’m the writer from Gimli who isn’t Icelandic. You don’t know how many times in my life I’ve said, when someone discovers that I’m from Gimli, “No, I’m not Icelandic.” Sometimes I don’t even wait for them to ask. I just say: I’m from Gimli and no I’m not Icelandic, though I grew up wishing that I was. It seemed to me the cool thing to be. When I was really small, I didn’t think you could wear one of those nice Icelandic Sweaters unless you were Icelandic. Anyway, Billy Valgardson wasn’t available – he’s gone home to the West Coast for the winter – and I was willing to drop in. I’m traveling anyway, on a book tour.
And actually, in this instance, it’s lucky that I’m not Icelandic, because there is still a bit of a myth out there that Betel is really just for Icelanders. And that used to be true, but it hasn’t been for a very long time. If you look at the list of residents now in Betel, here or in Selkirk, you will seen names of all kinds of ethnic origins: Ukrainian, Polish, German, English, Icelandic, Chinese … to name just a few, a cross cultural mix that I’m sure reflects pretty accurately the composition of these two communities.


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