Some Icelanders considering immigrating to Gimli, Manitoba. Why not Markerville too?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An interesting article today on the Globe and Mail tells of increased interest from people in Iceland on the possibility of moving to Gimli, Manitoba, which is the largest Icelandic settlement outside of Iceland itself. First some info on the town itself from Wikipedia:

Gimli is a rural municipality and the town of the same name located within it in south-central Manitoba, Canada. It is located on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg, about seventy-five kilometres north of the provincial capital Winnipeg, and close to the small town of Fraserwood. The town (population 5,797 Statistics Canada 2006 census) and surrounding area constitute an Icelandic ethnic block settlement, and are home to the largest Icelandic Canadian population outside of Iceland, a fact which gives the town its nickname "The Capital of New Iceland."
Seems like an okay location for an Icelandic immigrant wanting to move to Canada, and an increased Icelandic presence can only be good for keeping the language alive there. The article in the Globe and Mail has the following:

In downturns, Icelanders look to Gimli

If it's some place like home that Icelandic migrants seek, this is it. While the saucer-flat fields and calm lakefront might not look like the island nation's volcanic cones and craggy fjords, it is one of the few places in North America where you're as likely to hear góðan dag as good day.

The farmland 80 kilometres north of Winnipeg first beckoned Icelanders in 1875. A downturn in fishing and sheep farming drove thousands here by 1915. After a few brutal winters that sent some fleeing to the Dakotas, the new settlers learned to farm wheat instead of sheep and fish pickerel instead of cod, embracing the area to such a degree that they named this town after the mythical paradise of the gods from Norse mythology.

The immigrant pipeline dried up in 1915, but the Icelandic influence did not, evident in a towering Viking statue along the waterfront, an Icelandic-only tea at a local café and a constant procession of Icelandic dignitaries, including Geir Haarde, the Icelandic Prime Minister whose resignation brought down the government Monday.


So far, few new Icelandic newcomers have been spotted around town aside from a pair of architects looking for work and a recently laid-off newspaperman.

For Icelanders wanting to move to Alberta however, there's also the possibility of going to the hamlet of Markerville in Alberta, pretty close to Red Deer, the mid-sized city located in between Calgary and Edmonton. The hamlet is so small that it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page but I've visited there in person and there's a small Icelandic school, church, butter creamery and museum. I'd love to see some more activity there.

For more info on Markerville, see here, here, and here.

By the way, the comments on the article are hilarious. And the Icelandic Wikipedia still has no page on Gimli.

Edit February 11: looks like the Icelandic Wikipedia now does have a page on Gimli, started on February 6th.


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