October Pastor’s Letter
All are invited to celebrate St. Olaf Lutheran Church’s admission to the National Register of Historic Places. All are welcome. An RSVP to email@example.com would be appreciated.
Historic Designation Celebration
Sunday, November 13
9 – 10:30 am historical exhibits
10:30 – 11:30 am celebration worship
11:30 am – 1 pm reception with hors d’oeuvres
So, here we are in one of the inner cities of America, a “lodestar” of Norwegian-American heritage. “Loadstar” is the word one of the gatekeepers of designation at the Minnesota Historical Society termed our designation on the National Register. It’s not exactly what we were after when we first applied, but unbeknown to us, there was a 50 year demarcation line, defined by the civil unrest in 1967 most known for the riots in North Minneapolis following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Having passed that 50 year demarcation line, our designation could no longer be for the immigration history of the neighborhood, but rather, for its Norwegian heritage.
Nevertheless, the immigration history of the neighborhood looms dominant over the Norwegian Heritage. Immigrants outnumber Norwegians at St. Olaf and in the St. Olaf neighborhood. Add in those who did not have an immigration origin, to wit, Native Americans and African-Americans, the outnumbering is higher.
As American society tries to melt its many cultures into a homogenous whole, some European heritages are problematic because they involve resentments caused by colonialism. However, Norwegian heritage is fairly benign it this regard. Norwegian colonialism happened so long ago (the Vikings) that everybody is okay with it now. No one is clamoring to change the name of Minnesota’s football team! After that, Norway’s colonialism was mostly in territories no one wants anyway -places like South Georgia Island, Fridtjof Nansen Land, and the Sverdrup Islands, all since abandoned as colonies. Norway does maintain a colonial claim on a section of Antartica, an area which could be colonized without displacing indigenous peoples. Penguins maybe, but not people.
The first Norwegians who arrived in the United States seem to be rather innocent of the colonialist expansion of the United States into its west, which displaced Native American people. They responded to advertisements for free land in the United States, not knowing it was already inhabited. And, from what I can tell, they tried to befriend their Native American neighbors and didn’t participate in the later Boarding School movement that so traumatized Native American people. (They started one school in Wisconsin.)
But, all that is beside the point. As Henry Louis Gates says in his PBS show, Finding Your Roots, “None of us are responsible for what our parents did. But all of us are responsible to work together to make this a better world.” On November 13, we will celebrate our historic designation with this understanding. Peace…. Pastor Dale