Relationship between Norway, North Dakota celebrated

This historic photo shows Gov. Louis Hanna and Smith Stimmel in front of the Abraham Lincoln statue in Oslo, Norway, The photo was contributed by Gustav and Dorthea Renden. Courtesy of Grand Forks Herald.Independence Day observances for 30 people with ties to North Dakota began a week early this year when they participated in a June 28 ceremony in Oslo, Norway, organized by Norwegian officials that recognized the ties North Dakota has with the Scandinavian nation.


Independence Day observances for 30 people with ties to North Dakota began a week early this year when they participated in a June 28 ceremony in Oslo, Norway, organized by Norwegian officials that recognized the ties North Dakota has with the Scandinavian nation.

The guest speaker at the annual ceremony in front of the bust of Abraham Lincoln in Oslo’s Frogner Park was former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, now the honorary consul general to Norway. In his remarks, Mondale called Lincoln “America’s greatest president. And, I think Lincoln would like what he would see in Norway today. This country is not a military power like the United States, but it’s a great leader in world peace.”

The “North Dakotans to Norway” group participated in the ceremony to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. It also recognized the 95th anniversary of the gift of the Lincoln bust by the people of North Dakota to the people of Norway for the country’s 1914 centennial celebration of its independence from Sweden.

Other participants in the program were Lasse Espelid and Hallgrim Berg, from the Nordmanns Forbundet Norse Federation, U.S. Embassy Charge’ d’ Affaires Kristen Bauer, State Senator Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, and Rick Collin, communications and education director for the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the state liaison to the National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Jamestown Mayor Clarice Liechty also attended.

Lee brought greetings from Gov. John Hoeven, U.S. Senator Kent Conrad and U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, who co-chair the Congressional Norway Caucus. She said it was a pleasure to recognize the historic ties between North Dakota and Norway.

“The priorities of values and education were brought by the emigrants and continue today. The church and school were the first structures built in most new communities. Today, the University of North Dakota hosts more students from Norway than any other university in North America.

Collin said that in North Dakota today, 31 percent of the state’s population is of Norwegian descent — higher than any other state.

“This can be attributed to President Lincoln’s signing of the Homestead Act in 1862, which enabled thousands of immigrants, many of them from here in Norway, to acquire free land in then-Dakota Territory, and later North Dakota,” he said.

He described the Lincoln statue as “a symbol of the unique and powerful friendship between the people of North Dakota and the people of Norway. It is an outstanding example of the power of Lincoln’s ability to transcend national borders with his universal appeal as a symbol of liberty, freedom, humanity and equal justice for all.”

Collin also presented to Berg a letter and flag of North Dakota from SHSND Director Merl Paaverud.

“These annual ceremonies at this Lincoln bust are a reminder of the significance of Abraham Lincoln and the major role he played in American history. This event truly is a celebration of history by both nations and reminds us once again how important freedom is in our world today,” wrote Paaverud in his letter.

Participants in the “North Dakotans to Norway” tour group ranged in age from 13 to 85 and were residents of Iowa, Alaska, California, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and North Dakota. They included descendents of three people who attended the dedication ceremony in 1914, as well as Eric and Chris Fjelde, the twin grandsons of the Lincoln bust sculptor, Paul Fjelde.

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