Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gimli - a Little Bit of History

'In 1875 a group of Icelandic immigrants who had arrived in [Canada] moved to the west shore of Lake Manitoba where they had been granted a reserve of land by the Canadian Government...The immigrants formed their own administration based on a centuries-long tradition of democratic government...The Republic of New Iceland was created.'

The Rural Municipality of Gimli was established in 1887.
'The early immigrants came full of hope for a new life of opportunities and settled the land made available through homestead rights. The free offer of a 1/4 section (64 acres) to common people, most of whom had never owned land was a major attraction. But there were many difficulties - dense bush, flies, field stones and harsh winters which had to be endured.'
Quotes from various historic markers.

The Icelanders brought their pagan religion with them and found many parallels and an affinity with the First Nations peoples' beliefs.
This Unitarian church, built in 1904, is the oldest in Gimli. It represents the shift to a Christian based religion yet at the same time, the raven's nest is left in the spire as a remembrance of the importance of the raven in old Norse mythology.

Inside the church, while admiring the contemporary stained glass window, Janis Arnason kindly explained to us the history of the window.
It illustrates the life of John J. Arnason, 1925 - 1989, a man who led the church - his first job as a strawberry picker, his restoration of the school, his building of a dam, his restoration of the church.

The restored school is now Gimli's town hall.

Wherever we went people were willing and able to explain to us the history of the area. Icelanders know their roots and know how they are connected to others in their community. 

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