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Settlement in Alberta

Birkebeiner Although settlement in the United States and in central Canada occurred before 1850, it was not until the 1890s and the immigration policies of Clifford Sifton that the Canadian prairies were a destination. The reestablishment of the Eau Claire Lumber Company from Wisconsin to Calgary marked the earliest presence. Today it is still known as the Eau Claire district, redeveloped as a shopping plaza.

With many Norwegians moving from previous homesteads in the United States, they arrived in what would become the New Norway district. Communities such as Crooked Lake, Scandia, Bardo, Asker, Bakken, Oslo (later to be called 'Camrose'), Donalda, Preparing lutefisk Round Hill (Trondhjem), Bawlf, Viking and Edberg were largely established by Norwegians. Edmonton had a significant population of Norwegians, notable for establishing the Edmonton Ski Club and a chapter of the Sons of Norway, a fraternal society. By 1912, settlements had been established in the Peace River district, at Grande Prairie and at Valhalla Centre.

Wooden vessles with rosemaled finish, Red Deer Norwegian Lafthus, Red Deer, 1996 The establishment of churches was important for these Norwegian communities, as it is for almost all other immigrant groups. Religious tradition provides meaning and a script for life's passages, both joyful and sorrowful. In Alberta, the church was not only a religious institution, but also central to social and cultural expression. Schools were founded as well, the most important of these in 1911. Augustana University College in Camrose was founded as the Norwegian Lutheran Academy and was renamed Camrose Lutheran University College.

Cultural expression

Ski Jumping Besides churches, schools and fraternal societies, several Alberta ski clubs were founded by Norwegian immigrants and their ancestors. The Fram Ski Club was established in Camrose in 1911 and the Edmonton Ski Club was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1910. While skiing had both practical and sporting purposes, it was the construction of ski jumps that gave this activity a community presence that moved beyond the interests of the skiers themselves. The sport of skijumping was the earliest mass spectator winter sport in Alberta. The sport of skijumping as well as cross-country skiing was introduced to non-Norwegian enthusiasts, while remaining an important means of expression and practice for those of Norwegian ancestry.

Window of the Norwegian food kiosk Today, Norwegian cultural organizations such as the Sons of Norway continue to exist. In Alberta, the largest event reflecting the Norwegian culture is the Canadian Birkebeiner Festival, a series of cross-country ski races held east of Edmonton on the second Saturday in February. The Birkebeiner commemorates the legacy of the infant Crown Prince Hakon Hakkonsen, safely secured on the back of soldier skiers. Cultural societies such as the Norwegian Lafthus Society continue to encourage and promote the crafts and expression of the culture for those of both Norwegian and non-Norwegian ancestry.

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