The Esjan chapter of the I. N. L. was formed in Arborg, Manitoba in 1937, with 47 members. Esjan had it's roots in a literary organization, "Frodleikshvot" (a passion for learning) which was formed in this same area in 1908.
These two societies had much the same objectives, i.e. the preservation of Icelandic language and culture, and to make Icelandic literature available. It was natural that the two organizations should amalgamate, which they did in April of 1941. Esjan then assumed responsibility for the library, adding to the book collection each year.
Over the years Esjan members have undertaken various activities to further their goals. Icelandic language classes have been held from time to time, and in the early years, from 1944, members took part in poetry competitions, some of their material being published in Winnipeg weeklies, Logberg and Heimskringla, and some in a local paper called "Stormur" which was edited by Valdi Johannesson and printed and distributed by local Esjan members. During the fifties, annual competitions for young people reciting Icelandic poetry were popular. The chapter supported a youth choir, conducted by Johannes Palsson, accompanied by his sister, Lilja Martin.
In the winter of 1970-71, Icelandic classes were once again instituted, this time by Gudrun Gislason. Classes were held in her home on Saturday afternoons. Interest was keen and, with the aid of parents, the students staged a concert at the end of the term, highlighted by a play in Icelandic. Interest blossomed and eventually classes were moved into the regional schools at Arborg, Riverton and Gimli. This was supported by the department of education for several years.
At former meetings of Esjan, a variety program followed the regular agenda. This might consist of films, songs, reading of poetry (often original) and the age-old art of "kveda rimur" (chanting verses) and mimicry. Minutes of meetings were recorded in Icelandic until 1977. Today the membership numbers 33. It can be said of Esjan members that all of us understand Icelandic, and most read and write and are fluent in the language.
In recent years, the main focus of Esjan, besides that of promoting Icelandic culture, has been offering financial assistance to the weekly, "Logberg-Heimskringla", the Icelandic language camp at Gimli and the Icelandic chair at the University of Manitoba. The Gunnar Simundsson Memorial Scholarship was established, and a cairn has been raised in memory of Johann Magnus Bjarnason at Arnheidarstadir in Geysir. Esjan provided financial support for the Guttormur J. Guttormsson memorial cairn which was unveiled in Riverton in 1994.
Esjan always looks forward to hosting groups of visitors from Iceland. This summer was especially exciting with the visit of the men's choir "Heimir" from Skagafjordur. Esjan hosted the entire group to an evening meal after which Heimir sang in concert to a capacity crowd in the Arborg Community Hall.
In 1980, Esjan held it's first annual Thorrablot. This was very well received and has become a popular annual event.
by David Gislason: email@example.com