With Columbus Day to be celebrated tomorrow, it seems appropriate that some people honor the earlier European explorer known to have set foot on North American soil and the contribution of the Nordic peoples to the United States. Leif Erikson is regarded as the first European to land in North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. It is believed that he visited Newfoundland, Baffin Island, and Labrador around 1000 AD. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, which has been tentatively identified with the L'Anse aux Meadows Norse site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland in what is now Canada.
In 1964 the United States Congress authorized and requested the president to proclaim October 9 of each year as "Leif Erikson Day."
Leif Erikson was born of Norwegian descent around 970 AD in Iceland. It is thought that his father and grandfather were outlaws and explorers around Scandinavia and Greenland.
Leif Erikson went to Norway to work for King Olaf I of Norway. During his stay, he converted to Christianity. When he returned to Iceland, he bought a boat and, in 1003, set out to explore the land west of Greenland. The land that he had discovered was actually Newfoundland, which is now part of Canada. The 'Saga of the Greenlanders' tells of his adventures.
It is thought that he visited Baffin Island and Labrador and settled on the Northern part of the island of Newfoundland, now all part of Canada. There are speculations that Leif Erikson or later explorers may have traveled into the area that is now Minnesota in the United States, but there is no proof of such travels.
You can read more about Leif Erikson in Wikipdia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leif_Erikson
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