Monday, March 01, 2021

Chicago monuments under assault, Part Four, Leif Erikson

This entry, nomination if you will, for the "under review" Chicago Monuments list puzzles me, Leif Erikson. The Norse chieftan is likely the first European to land on North American soil, with his crew of course.

The first humans to encounter the western hemisphere landmass of course were hunter-gatherers from what is now the Russian Far East who crossed Beringa, the land bridge between that area and Alaska, thousands of years ago. They discovered America but either they didn't tell anyone about it or those who heard about quickly forgot about the news. 

Click here to see the Leif Erikson statue on the Chicago Monuments site.

Erikson, born in Iceland around 970 or 980, was the son of Erik the Red, who founded the first Viking settlement in Greenland, which, although not on of the mainland, is considered part of North America. According to Icelandic sagas, on a voyage Erikson was blown off course and ended up in Vinland to the west where they encountered Native Americans, skrælingi, Old Norse for "wretches." These stories were seen as just that by historians for centuries, stories, fictional ones. But in the 1960s, archealogists discovered a Norse settlement from the time of Erikson in Newfoundland. The Vikings made it to America, or as they call it, Vinland, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus did.

In Humboldt Park on the Northwest Side stands a Leif Erikson statue, the Viking is decked out in traditional medieval garb. It was commissioned by the local Norwegian-American community and designed by Sigvald Asbjørnsen. 

Like some of the other people represented monments on the Chicago Monuments Project that are "under review," Erikson was a slaveholder, although his thralls were also European. It's possible that Erikson never encountered an African person.

But Erikson is "under review."


At the base of the statue it reads, "Leif Erikson, discoverer of America."

To comment on the Erikson statue and the forty others "under review" please visit the Chicago Monuments Project "Feedback page." Please be polite but firm in your comments.

If you Tweet this post--and I urge you to do so--please use the #ChicagoMonuments hashtag.

Earlier posts

Chicago monuments under assault, Part One, William McKinley

Chicago monuments under assault, Part Two, Young Lincoln 

Chicago monuments under assault, Part Three, Melville Fuller

Related posts of mine at Da Tech Guy

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