Leif Ericson is the first-ever European voyager to land in North America. Belonging to the Icelandic Old Norse race, Ericson pioneered the establishment of the Vinland Settlement which is across the Labrador and Newfoundland communities in Canada.
Erik the Red
Leif was born in Iceland in 970 AD. His father, Erik Thordvalsson (Erik the Red), was a Norse explorer from Norway. In 986 AD, he moved his family to Greenland. During their stay in the country, Erik discovered two Norse colonies – the Eastern and Western settlements. Erik traditionally named the colonies, “Landnama” and “Eiriks Saga Rauda.” Early as an adult, Leif married an Icelandic woman who lived in Greenland named Thorgunna. The couple had one child whose name was Thorkell Leifson.
After years of residing in Greenland, Leif and his own family decided to settle down in Norway. Just like many other Norsemen during his time, Leif converted to Christianity with the blessings of King Olaf I of Norway. Leif returned to Greenland after purchasing a “Bjarni Herjolfsson” ship for his 35 men. This ship was used during Leif’s explorations across the western boundaries of Canada and Greenland. In the year 1003, Leif led the “Saga of the Greenlanders” which coincided with the Bjani’s route towards the Northern coastal areas.
A Great Commission
Leif made landfall at the Helluland (“Land of the Stones”) which was covered with flat solid rock formations. He renamed the Land of the Stones “Baffin Island” prior to his next landfall. Leif and his crew of 35 left the Markland (“Labrador Island”) and made landfall at Leifsbudir, an Icelandic term for “Leif’s storage houses.” The name was suggested by his crew after finding out that they actually landed in his hometown. On his return from his three voyages, he received orders from Olaf I that he should go back to Greenland in order to spread Christianity across the country. He stayed with Erik at the remote town of Brattahild. Leif died in 1020. There isn’t much detail about how he died, and his death became the subject of many debates among historians.
Based on a 1960 research conducted by Icelandic archeologists Anne and Helge Ingstad, Leif secretly discovered a Norse settlement along Newfoundland. The settlement was named “Le Anse Aux Meadows,” which appeared to be the Canadian counterpart of the Leifsbudir. In 1964, the US Congress issued a proclamation stating the declaration of October 9 as “Leif Ericson Day.” During the first Leif Ericson Day celebration, the US Immigration authorities renewed their close ties with Norway in remembrance of the Norwegian “Restauration” ship’s landfall in the New York City Harbor on October 9, 1825.
Leif is a world-renowned explorer from Greenland. Although born Icelandic, Leif’s expeditions brought prominence to Greenland as a country of great explorers. Leif also played a very significant role in expanding Christianity in Greenland. Leif’s heroic exploits in leading his men during the Viking explorations led to the settlement of the Norse at Vinland, which is now the Canadian Labrador town.