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Danish Profile provided courtesy of the 1984 Alberta People Kit

  The first Dane to land in Canada was Captain Jens Munk. Jens Munk sailed for northern Canada in middle of May, 1619 with 2 ships  named "Enhjørningen" (48 crewmen) and "Lampretten" (16 crewmen) to find a way to the Orient and was not attempting to establish a Danish settlement. Almost everyone onboard died of scurvy, except the Captain Jens Munk and 2 crewmen who barely made it back to Bergen and then to Copenhagen.

A more successful Danish settlement was established in New Brunswick in 1872. In the Saint John River valley Danish settlers cleared the land to make way for the farming community of New Denmark, which today is an agricultural centre that produces potatoes and mixed crops.

The first Danish settlers in Alberta arrived at the turn of the century. Like many of the pioneers who moved to the prairies during this period, the Danes were attracted to the area by CPR land agents and an aggressive advertising campaign sponsored by the government of Canada.

In 1902 Jens and Henry Larsen made a trip to what is now Alberta from Omaha, Nebraska, to see if the advertised area was suitable for Danish settlement. They returned to Nebraska with the report that the region was rich in forests, grazing land and wildlife. The next year several Danish families from Nebraska emigrated to the area and founded the community of Dickson west of Innisfail and Red Deer.

Danish immigrants from Kimballton-Elkhorn, Iowa, founded the settlement of Standard in 1910. They occupied a 17,000 acre block of land which the CPR had set aside for them. One of the largest Danish colonies in Alberta was established at Dalvin in 1918 by a group of settlers from Michigan who migrated to the province under the auspices of the Danish Folk Society. Other Danish settlements in Alberta were found at Olds, Viking and Ponoka.

More Danish immigrants arrived in Alberta in the 1920s and again in the 1950s. The group arriving in the 1950s included many professionals and skilled workers who settled in the urban centres of the province.

In 1971 there were 20,120 Canadians of Danish origin residing in Alberta, most of whom lived in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.

There has never been a co-ordinating agency for the social or cultural activities of the Danish population in Alberta, but there are several local organizations throughout the province. In Calgary, the Danish Canadian Club sponsors a variety of cultural, sports and businessmen's associations. Of particular interest is the distinctive Royal Danish Guards Association, whose membership consists of individuals who have served in the Royal Danish Guard. The Ansgar Danish Lutheran Church and the Danish Society Dansk promote many social activities in Edmonton. There is also a Danish Canadian Club in Red Deer.

Most of the Danish churches established on the prairies were Lutheran. They were both religious and social centres for early Danish settlers. Almost without exception the Canadian Danish Lutheran churches were branches of Danish Lutheran churches in the United States.

Within the Danish Lutheran Church there were two divisions consisting of the Grundtvigians and the Inner-Mission Beckians. The former were theologically liberal and very conscious of Danish culture, while the latter maintained a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Of the Danish settlements in Alberta only Dalvin was Grundtvigian.

The Dickson congregation called up its first pastor, J.D. Gundeson, from Wisconsin in 1904. Construction of their church building began in 1907, which makes it the oldest United Evangelical Church in Canada.

Some early Danish settlements in Alberta had folk high schools based on the Danish model. The Dickson High School, established in 1930, is the oldest rural high school in Alberta.

For the most part Danish settlements did not retain many of their original cultural traditions because their population was small and scattered over large areas. Also, many of the Danish settlers who came from the United States had already begun to adapt to the North American way of life and had intermarried with other ethnic groups. There is very little language retention beyond the first generation although there have been attempts on the part of the Danish community to establish formal language programs.

The cultural traditions which have survived include Katten Af Tonden, which is a children's party where youngsters hit a suspended wooden barrel for a prize. St. Mans Fest is celebrated by the Calgary Danish Canadian Club on June 23 or the nearest weekend to that date. It includes the lighting of bonfires and singing.

Publications that contain items on Danish culture are The Lur, which is issued quarterly by the Scandinavian Historical Society, and the Scandinavian Centre News, which is issued monthly by the Scandinavian Centre Co-operative Association.  
 


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