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
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
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.