Minnesota Vikings: More than just Football
It’s common knowledge to anyone who follows the NFL that Minnesota’s team mascot is Viktor the Viking. What’s a little less well known is how deeply entrenched in Minnesota culture Viking heritage is.
The Vikings based themselves out of what is commonly known as Scandinavia, an area of northern Europe encompassing Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. During the 1800s and early 1900s many residents of this area migrated to the United States, spurred on by the availability of inexpensive land through the homestead acts. They settled especially densely in the northwest, including what would eventually become the state of Minnesota. When they set up their homesteads, they brought Viking culture with them- an influence which is still around today.
One of the most obvious of these cultural traits is the regional food. While Minnesotans certainly enjoy their hamburgers and french fries as much as any other US state, the region plays host to a few unique delicacies. One of these is lutefisk, which in popular folklore traces its lineage back to the Vikings themselves. Lutefisk (which means literally “lye fish”) is made of dry or salted whitefish soaked in lye. It has a gelatinous consistency and a generally mild taste. Lefse, a flat bread cooked on a griddle, is another regional dish with Scandinavian origins. It’s a versatile treat that can be eaten with anything from peanut butter to lutefisk.
Food is not the only Viking influence in Minnesota. In 1898, Olof Ohman claimed to have found a large stone with markings engraved in it while clearing his land. This slab, called the Kensington Runestone, became a source of intense controversy. It was believed to be evidence that Scandinavian explorers reached Minnesota in the 14th century. Although it has been largely dismissed by most experts in the field, residents of Kensington still strongly support its legitimacy. Even if it is a hoax, the tenacity of the local support clearly shows a desire to be connected to Viking heritage.
These are far from the only notable Viking influences in Minnesota. Organizations like the Sons of Norway and Hjemkomst Center exist to keep Viking heritage alive, and are great places to learn more about how deep the Minnesota Viking story goes.