As Glenn explains, “When I first started writing Vikings on a Prairie Ocean, I became enamoured with the idea of capturing some of the incredible characters from my life and childhood, bringing to life the inspirational and unique people who have deeply influenced my career.
History is a story, but a story with a difference. We own this story. History is glue. It is as important to a group as memory is to a person. History expresses what we share and how we differ. History is alive. It shapes the lens through which we see the world. History is an identity.
The book is dedicated to my mother and father, Sylvia and Stefan Sigurdson. Their story can be read below.”
Stefan Sigurdson was a special man with a quiet way. He was born into an Icelandic-Canadian fishing family in Hnausa, Manitoba on the shores of Lake Winnipeg on November 21, 1921. He spent the first 70 years of his life in the village of Riverton, the family home and headquarters of Sigurdson Fisheries Ltd., with its own legacy of more than a century on Lake Winnipeg. Dad was known as a statesman within the Lake Winnipeg fishery. His gentle wisdom and charisma were felt in the communities around the lake, in Winnipeg doing business, or selling fish into the markets of Chicago. He formed deep relationships with the indigenous people, always mindful that they had lived around the lake and off the lake—and the mighty rivers that enter and leave it—long before the arrival of any Icelanders. Dad gave strong leadership by giving strength to others without ego, and always with respect.
When he returned from three years of duty on a Royal Canadian Navy corvette in the North Atlantic during the Second World War, he saw a beautiful young woman walking down the street in Riverton. He soon identified her as Sylvia Brynjolfson, whose family had recently relocated to Riverton from nearby Hecla Island. His strategy was simple. Talking fish with her father “Malli,” one of the iconic Lake Winnipeg fishermen, was sure to be the best way into her heart and then her life. They married in 1946 and in each of the 66 years that followed they were a powerful team. Together they built a life, brought up three children, and worked in the business, the church and the community as dedicated citizens and untiring contributors.
No two people better epitomize life on Lake Winnipeg, the vast prairie ocean, than my mother and father, Sylvia and Stefan. The lake defines them; it is inside them. That wisdom has also shaped my life. Dad worked with me over several years as I gave birth to this labour of love, and he shares its authorship. Before he died in 2012, he knew that this book would one day be completed.
“takk fyrir ferðina” Thanks for the journey
“The Icelanders became neighbours with the First Peoples of these lands, alongside the existing settlers and those from many places who followed. Writing the Canadian story had just begun, and this group from an island in the middle of the North Atlantic was there helping to write it, adding their own story, and adding another chapter to the history of the Vikings. Their saga was unlike that of many immigrants who came after to find their way by fitting into a new land. The Icelanders arrived with a vision of building a New Iceland within “the Icelandic Reserve” set aside for them and began the arduous task of creating a society with its own institutions and identity…
Many Icelanders journeyed from their island home expecting a new life beside a prairie ocean. They understood that independence and interdependence were intrinsically interconnected. They understood that creating an economy as a basis for self-sufficiency was the foundation of independence. Mostly, sheep farmers, they came to find land but confronted with heavily forested terrain and long, snowy winters, the futility of farming soon became apparent. Within a few years, the farmers became fishermen, and began building “New Iceland” inside a country itself engaged in the business of nation-building.”
“Harry had walked this young lawyer into the University of Real Life with a quiet compelling eloquence that afternoon in Norway House. It would begin to inform what I had taken from many classrooms, not just with the experiences of the lake, but from the many rivers that flow into it, and the one river, the mighty Nelson that carries its waters north to the Hudson Bay, and the people who live along with them. Lake Winnipeg was to be lassoed as a “storage basin” for water in the summer and to be deployed for hydro generation in the winter months when southern markets were hungriest for power, in effect a southern extension of the Nelson. Through Harry and many others like him, I came to know Cree and be taught by them about the great rivers and lands north of Lake Winnipeg, their way of living, their history on those lands from time immemorial, and the waters they travelled and fished. The Cree became my valued teachers. This was a land of which I knew little, but home to a people with whom I felt at home, a gift from growing up on the lake.”