I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!


In 1492, wise and resourceful explorer Cristóbal Colon set foot on America, sailing all the way to Columbus, Ohio and establishing a city to convert the heathen Native Americans, who inexplicably called themselves “Indians.” He did this for all Christian mankind and even was so humble and loveable that he allowed someone to name it “America” after that individual. Today, we hold magnificent large parades in his honor which would no doubt cause him to blush, because that’s how darn humble and loveable he was!

Or so, far too many good Americans believe. Bring up the name of Leif Eiriksson and L’Ans aux Meadows, and a dim flicker of recognition may flash across their faces. Bring up Eirik Þorvaldsson and Grænland, and you might get recognition of an island a mile or two off the coast of Norway. Very few people will recognize the name of the real first European to set foot on continental America or even onto an island that is part of North America. Google those names, and they will come back with pictures of Columbus because that is what you really or that you should be interested in!

But I have gone on about this at length in the past. Everyone knows—or should know—that I consider Columbus a fool for several reasons, and everyone should now that I am very respectful of Leif and his daddy. Hopefully those who know of my beliefs will not just automatically dump me into the same midden reserved for believers in the Newport Tower, the Kensington Stone and the Heavener Stone. But can anyone answer this question…

A bit of background first. Iceland is on the continental divide between America and Europe and so was technically at least partially the New World. I will disregard that.

But Grænland is very much a part of North America. It is not regarded as a separate continent by most persons. Europeans attained Grænland, settled there, prospered to some extent there (during the period, Grænland was better known than Ísland) and maintained their outposts there for at least five centuries. And yet, Eirik the Red is not regarded by most as the “discoverer” of the New World (actually, American Indians were) and his emigrant are not regarded again by most as the first Europeans in the New World. Why?

Is it because Eirik was only on an island and not on the mainland? But Columbus only ran into islands considerably smaller than Grænland and never set foot on the mainland.

Is it because the people on Grænland did not enslave, decimate or convert the natives? One hopes not, but no one has really proven the truth to me either way (And actually, there is great evidence that the Inuit and the Norse ran into the uninhabited continent at about the same time, although they settled in different places).

Is it because the Columbus encounter changed the view of the world? Ah, now, that is probably very true and very close to the prejudice. Not the concept that the earth was round; folk had supposed that for millennia, but that all the land mass was in a circle on one side of the globe. It has been suggested that Leif and Eirik and their fellows supposed that if they went far enough, they would just run into Africa. The Scandinavians and, perhaps, the English sailed to the New World shopping mart for centuries after the end of attempted colonization, and never even considered that the New World that Columbus encountered was part of the world they had known about for centuries.

Perhaps that is worthy, in some minds, of discarding the Norse in favor of Columbus. But to my thought, that is the equivalent of many Americans knowing and loudly proclaiming that John Glenn was the first human in outer space.

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