Since the release of Vikings on a Prairie Ocean, I have received so many wonderful responses in conversations, emails, and letters. I publish a selection of these now, and will continue to do so from time to time in the months ahead, as they tell a story in themselves, and are now part of the story that I have shared. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this, and I welcome ongoing contributions. I have also now published on the website a recent letter that I wrote in this regard “The Vikings Community is Growing!”
Glenn has written a completely unique book. It is a memoir, but more than a memoir. It is a chronicle of a people, but more than a chronicle. It is a documentary about the interaction between human beings and their environment, but it is more than that. It is a fish story, but it’s more than that! It is a brilliant, expansively written 21st century saga about a small, remote community before the last memory is extinguished. Glenn’s saga preserves the legacy of this community, but it does more than that. It celebrates the immense contribution it has made, from its impact on Glenn and his work, to its surprisingly powerful contribution to our national identity. All told with honesty, humour, and heart. If you read one book this summer…
Paul Sullivan, Writer and Former Western Editor of The Globe & Mail
Sonja Lundstrom, Winnipeg, May 30, 2014
Book and Website: They are both outstanding. I am so enjoying the clips, music and videos on the web. You must be getting such pleasure out of this creation! Enjoy! You have written the story with such genuine passion. Love it.
Gail Konantz, Vancouver, BC, June 7, 2014
I have just turned the last page of your beautifully written book. Your tribute to your Dad brought a quite unexpected outflow of tears. Your account is so sincere, insightful and emotional, not just as the history of a time, a place and a people, but brimming with passion for all that you absorbed and retained, learned and share in an “all is changing” world. To me that was the best part – your self-knowledge, and how your upbringing informed your life and chosen career in mediation. I was pleased to discover so much about you and your interests and the people who surrounded and influenced you. Best of all were the lessons you learned. Your writing goes straight to the heart. It certainly went to mine. I kept having a dialogue with you as I read. (Have you read the Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King?) How often I’ve said to my children “there are many truths” and I even had it carved on a small box I gave to Donnie.
Six generations back, Gordie’s native ancestor Nahoway, born at Fort Prince of Wales, married William Sinclair. They raised 11 children both at Red River, and at Norway house. William designed the York Boat and their son James took settlers to Oregon in 1841. A few generations later, Gordie’s great grandmother married Donald MacTavish chief factor at Norway house where his grandmother Edith, the first woman MLA in Manitoba was born and lived until she was 6. His origins are deep in the fur trade. My mother was in a car accident when I was 6 months old and confined to a wheelchair. I was sent to Camp Morton near Gimli with a “nanny” and remember VJ day walking along the street there at the age of 9. I was also sent to the Gemmel family mink farm on the lake north of Gimli for several summers and developed a healthy respect for the vastness and capriciousness of Lake Winnipeg. My friend Joanne Driscoll’s sister drowned at Matlock.
How fortunate for all of us that someone like you, a “rambunctious and relentlessly curious” bright light, has written this history of New Iceland for posterity. Thanks to your stories from the inside, we are able to deepen our understanding of this slice of Canadian History. I’ve always admired the fact that a small island people could have such pride in literacy, passion for reading, and purposeful good governance. So many Icelandic Canadians will see themselves and their families reflected and celebrated through your many positive portraits,
Your wise words on the spaces between, and your Lao Tsu quote resonate all the way down to a person to person level in a family. I’ve taken them to heart!
Already my list of people who will enjoy this extraordinarily engrossing read is growing. Thank you so much. With love and admiration.
Grant Mitchell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 19, 2014
Last night, I finished reading the Viking book. I was slowing down near the end to savour it for as long as I could. I think it is a wonderful book that should be compulsory reading for all Manitobans! I was moved to tears in the last chapters. The whole thing is beautifully written. I found I could often hear your voice in the printed words. I have read several books about 19th century Manitoba and have enjoyed them all, but yours is the best by far.
Not surprisingly, your comments about Leon struck me the most profoundly. You have done a great service to his memory, as you have done for your own father. Here are a couple of technical points on his history. Leon’s family arrived in Winkler from Poland/Russia in 1921, when Leon was 5. He had a bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome in his early 20’s, making him unfit for military service. He became the business agent for the Civic Employees’ Union, which he led into the national CUPE. He started law school in 1951 and suffered the more intense GB syndrome in 1952, delaying his graduation by a year. He started his practice in the McLaren Hotel, next door to City Hall, after articling to Monty Israels.
I share this because some of these facts are at odds with what is written in the book. Dad used to like to quote Farley Mowat, that he didn’t write facts, he wrote truth. Your book has the truth. If there is an opportunity to correct the facts, I could help.
I don’t know if you are planning to write any more books, but if you do, I will be among the first to subscribe. Great job!
Russ Gourluck, Vancouver and Winnipeg, August 18, 2014
I just finished reading your book and found it fascinating. I learned a great deal about Riverton, Lake Winnipeg, the Interlake in general, Icelanders, fishing, and the Sigurdson family, and it helped me to understand why the Reids and other Riverton residents held your family in such high regard.
I read about many people I knew and others that I heard of during the two years that I lived and worked in Riverton, and I wished I’d been able to read a book like this back then so I would have had a better understanding of the people and the community.
Karen Jensen, US, August 13 , 2014
My brother Bruce told me he saw you At the Icelandic Celebration, promoting your book. I googled you and found the information and Amazon had it here in no time.
I loved it! Thank you for “bringing back to life ” so many people I remember from Riverton. Even though we left when I was 8 I remember a lot about life there and the impact it had on me. I was a bird my first year figure skating and a sugar plum fairy the second year. I remember so many of the fishing boats at the dock close to my Ammas house and always wondered what happened in between their leaving and returning, now I know.
I really appreciated your insights into leadership, management and organizational behavior. I spent most of my healthcare career in leadership positions and share many of your values and perspectives. You struggled in the book to label what you do. As I read, the word catalyst came to mind…….the essential ingredient to make powerful things happen. Congratulations on an exemplary career.
I left Canada in the early 70s and returned for 9 years when my boys were young. I proudly reveal myself as an Icelandic -Canadian and have a grandson who was Thor before the movies came out!
Thanks for the trip down memory lane, I really enjoyed it. All the best to you.
Jim Best, London, UK, August 31, 2014
My grandfather was Svenn Thorvaldson and I wanted to say how much I am enjoying Vikings on a Prairie Ocean. I do like the specific stories of a hard life by remarkable people and you tell it well. Thanks so much.
David Friesen, Vancouver and Winnipeg, September 30, 2014
I was having lunch today with Greg Shilliday and we were talking about your book. I read the book several months ago and enjoyed it immensely. While the Icelanders and the Mennonites had many different traits I felt the family business story was very similar to our own. Whenever I heard the name Riverton I thought of Reggie Leach – the Riverton Rifle … but there was obviously much more than hockey going on in your community. We should get together again sometime soon.
Irvin Olafson, Gimli, October 6, 2014
You book has captured the essence of the ‘Lake’ and our family…including yourself. It was exciting to be at your book launch and associated soirees. Congratulations. I had lunch with the Gimli librarians and they are getting book sent out from Mc-R. Thanks again. Another job well done, or rather, another mission accomplished.
…Speaking of books, I am enthralled by yours. Fantastic job. The first chapter is the best description of what we do that has ever been penned or spoke. I have read it twice. No sure I will ever get to the next? One immediate result is to realize again how unlike what we love to do are the bureaucratized processes of today. Your friend and colleague and admirer
Tim Martin, Minaki and Buenos Aires, October 11, 2014
I wanted to drop you a brief note to tell you how much I enjoyed and benefited from your book.
Besides the beautiful recounting of Icelandic history in Manitoba, I felt that you powerfully conveyed the importance of being from a place and a people as the foundation for what we do in life. It is so true that human authenticity is a necessary condition for responsible leadership. Also, for construction of trust, without which it is so difficult to solve problems. In case you are interested, I have copied below one of my blog postings on this subject.
One of your phrases really struck me: “Turning rights into results.” and it is very inspirational as I am working with Resolve on the FPIC project. With best regards from the upper reaches of the Winnipeg River,
Robert V. Oleson, Winnipeg, November 4, 2014
I read your most excellent book, a true saga indeed. Many things struck me, especially the sense of family (to which I related strongly as there are many parallels to my own Icelandic upbringing), a shared appreciation for history and its importance in the big picture (with my history background I was delighted with your view), and I am in full agreement that one should seat the small stuff. The history of the Lake Winnipeg fishery is a valuable contribution. Congratulations.
With my HBC background, I was intrigued with the account of the Lake Winnipeg dogs (and the HBC role) and the Shackleton expedition. With that new found knowledge, I went on the internet and learned more the role and unfortunate fate of the dogs.
Also as a result of my HBC experience and working on The Beaver magazine, my penchant for accuracy was present as I read through the book.
On page 19: “… moving supplies 1000 miles south down the Nelson River….then carrying furs back to ships awaiting in Churchill Bay”.
The Nelson was little used in the HBC transportation of goods and furs and Churchill Bay was not a major part of it either. York Factory at the mouth of the Hayes River was the Company’s main provisioning post on the west coast of Hudson Bay and main post for traffic inland. The Hayes was the highway for goods shipped inland and for furs shipped to the Bay. The annual HBC ships annually delivered good to YF and returned to England with the furs. With the exception of a French occupation (1697 and into the early 1700s) York Factory was the HBC centre for operations. It was founded in 1682, rose to its zenith in the mid-1800s, and operated until 1957. It was turned over to Parks Canada and is a National Historic site. Thanks also for writing the article on Dave T. in L-H. We were good friends and I must say I miss him.
Chris Westdal, Ottawa, November 27,2014
I take the liberty of using your first name, because I feel my brother Paul has introduced us, not least by giving me a copy of your splendid “Vikings on a Prairie Ocean.”
As Paul may have told you, our great grandfather and his family were driven from eastern Iceland – from Bru, Jokudalur to Grunnavatn and finally, a last attempt, Torfastadir – by Askja’s eruption and 30 years of its aftermath. It startles me always to remember that when they at last gave up on the old, desperate life and set out to start a new one, homesteading near Wynyard in 1905, Jon Jonsson was 54, his wife Anna Kristjun Gunnlaugsdottir 61 (and their third son, Paul, our Afi, 17). The story has happy endings, but, my God, some chapters were rough.
My family never fished Lake Winnipeg, but I got a good taste of it at Sunrise Camp on Willow Point and on the boats and the snow-shoes of St. John’s Cathedral Boys’ School. Too, whitefish was a 24/7 staple at my Amma and Afi’s.
All of which is to say that I took your book personally, cared about its characters, and recognized in them and their lives much that I experienced and admired in the culture of my father’s Icelandic-Canadian family.
Your book is a great tribute to a remarkable community, above all to your own family. It is as fine an act of devotion and love as might be imagined to thank and honour the memory of your father and mother.
I should also mention that I found your writing a delight, in its style and its sequence, with your personal and professional life well incorporated. I admired as well the respect you afford the drama in every individual life (and think it instructive of the scale and of the morality of Icelandic communities).
You have well evoked the whole world of Lake Winnipeg last century and the stirring sagas of those who fished it. Bravo!
Glenn can be reached by email at glenn at glennsigurdson dot com and on twitter at @glennsigurdson. You can also visit the Vikings on a Prairie Ocean facebook page and post your own comments here on the page below.