2015 Icelandic League of North American Convention

  Coming to America

Iceland: Stepping Stone for the Medieval Norse Fur Trade in North America
A historical perspective on the Norsemen who migrated to North America after the 9th and 10th century to live and trade with the Indians, how the trade in furs influenced Norway’s decisions to annex and tax Greenland and Iceland, why the trade was eventually abandoned and efforts to restore the trade. Evidence of these events is described.

About the Presenters
Robert G. Johnson, Ph.D., was trained as a physicist and had a career in research and new product development at Honeywell before retiring to a position of adjunct professor in the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Minnesota.
Janey Westin is a professional calligrapher, stone letter carver, and sculptor with her studio in Edina, Minnesota. She was an exchange student in Japan and earned a BA in Japanese from the University of Minnesota. She has a focused interest in medieval writings, and frequently teaches carving, sculpting, and calligraphy in national seminars.

Icelanders and Washington Island
An overview of Washington Island and the Icelandic settlers who came here, the focus will be on the Arni Gudmundsen family.

About the Presenter  
Richard Purinton has been a resident of Washington Island, Wisconsin for 40 years and is married to Mary Jo (Richter), great granddaughter of Arni Gudmundsen, an Icelandic settler on Washington Island.  He has worked with the Washington Island Ferry Line (40 years) and more recently – in partial retirement as CEO – operated the small ferry to Rock Island State Park, from Washington Island's Jackson Harbor to the Thordarson boathouse on Rock Island, northern Lake Michigan waters.  He has a personal interest in local and regional history, and has written and self-published several books with that perspective.  Richard and his wife have three children and four grandsons, and all but the youngest son, Thordur, are Washington Island residents.

The Icelandic Churches in Vesturheimur...A Virtual Trip
Gudmundur Vidarsson, Gummi, and the late John Rutford undertook a project to photograph all the Icelandic churches in the USA and Canada.  After more than a decade, the final result is ready for publishing.  Gummi will talk about the project and his experiences – a very enjoyable presentation with interesting stories behind these pictures.
A project that initially started in the year 1994, and in the year 1999 became supported by the Christianity Committee in celebration of 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland. The project was collectively photographing and gathering historical facts on all the Icelandic Churches built in the USA and Canada, then made into a very successful exhibit in the largest Museum in Iceland, Gerdarsafn in April 2000. 
Learn more at: http://gudmundurvidarsson.tripod.com/
About the Presenter
Gudmundur, a professional photographer from Iceland and a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, also attended the University of Minnesota on a scholarship from the Fulbright commission in Iceland. While studying he had the opportunity to stay at the home of John and Donna Rutford in St. Paul. It was during a short trip to North Dakota that the idea came about and was formed to photograph Icelandic churches.  Gummi is Married to Ingunn Bernotusdottir a Senior Financial Specialist at Islandsbanki, and has two girls Thorunn Qingsu 10 and Eva Quixiang 7 years old.

Utah’s Western Icelanders: A History and Living Legacy
The immigration of Icelanders to Utah between 1855 and 1900 was different from other out-migrations in important ways, chief among which was that it was religiously motivated.  The vast majority of the immigrants were recent converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).  They were in the unusual position of feeling that they were both leaving home and going home.  Not all remained true to their new faith, but the great majority did.  This rich mixture of culture and faith is the heart and soul of the Icelandic legacy that is dear to the hearts and identity of so many of Utah's Western Icelanders, even though they have spread to many other locations through succeeding generations.  This presentation will provide a flavor and a context of that migration of Icelandic "Saints."
About the Presenters
Richard N. Williams is a professor of psychology and director of the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He is the great-great-great grandson of Samúel Bjarnasson who was one of the first three Icelanders to immigrate to the United States and establish a permanent settlement in Spanish Fork, Utah in 1855.
Lacey Nielson is the president of the Icelandic Association of Utah located in Spanish Fork.  She obtained a bachelors degree in marriage and family studies from Brigham Young University. She is also a descendent of Samúel Bjarnasson.
Brent Haymond – waiting to receive

Words Worth Keeping: The Fragile Heritage Project
This talk is a presentation on the Fragile Heritage Project. The goal of our project is to collect information about Icelandic heritage manuscripts, personal writings and letters here in North America. We want to include this information in an online library of Icelandic manuscripts (http://handrit.is). Handrit.is was created as a shared space for Icelandic heritage: from ancient sagas to Halldór Laxness’s letters. With the help of the Internet, we will be able to reunite stories and bring together writings that are kept in many different physical locations across North America. We hope it will become a helpful resource for students, writers, translators and researchers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and for anyone searching for more information on the written traces left by immigrants from Iceland.
The project has received support and assistance from (to date): the Eimskip Fund, the Manitoba Heritage Grant Program, the University of Manitoba Icelandic Department, the National and University Library of Iceland, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen and last but certainly not least from the Honorary Council of the Icelandic National League.

About the Presenter
Ryan Eric Johnson is currently a PhD candidate in history at the University of Iceland. His undergraduate studies include a BA in Icelandic Studies at the University of Manitoba and a BA in Icelandic as a second language at the University of Iceland. His graduate studies at the University of Iceland also include an MA in Icelandic Literature.

"Þau fóru . . . til Minnesota" – Ties that bind East Iceland and Minnesota
Thousands left from all parts Iceland in the 19th century, most of them settling in Canada. However, the emigrants who settled in the old "Minnesotabyggð" were mostly from East Iceland, and Cathy Josephson will explore the strong family ties between these two areas.

About the Presenter
Cathy was born and raised in the old "Minnesota Settlement", the daughter of Frank A. Josephson and Helen Irene Spears. She has lived in the North, East, South and West in the States - and on a family trip to Iceland in 1994 found that she had finally found a home. The East Iceland Emigration Center was formed in 2002, and since then she has been part of their volunteer efforts to find and reunite families and friends – restoring and strengthening the ties that bind East Iceland and Minnesota – and also throughout the Americas.

Islendingadagurinn: Celebrating 125 Years
In 2014, Islendingadagurinn commemorated 125 years of celebrating Icelandic history, culture, and its contribution to life in Manitoba. In honour of this milestone anniversary, the Festival Committee has launched a campaign to support the creation of a vibrant and beautiful green space adjacent to the Viking Statue.  This presentation will provide Convention delegates with an update on the design of the new park and illustrate how, with a modest donation, you can Make History with Us!
About the Presenter
Kathi Thorarinson Neal is the Co-Chair of the 125 Islendingagurinn Legacy Campaign.  Kathi is a former President of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba and has been a member of the board of directors since 2002.

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