Scandinavian role in Old West explored

Symposium highlights writers, civic leaders, scientists

January 16, 2014



Jennifer Easton Attebery, director of the Folklore Program at Idaho State University, will open the Friday evening session with a discussion of how translations of Buffalo Bill dime novels and weeklies by Swedish emigrants influenced perception of the American West back home.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Jan. 16, 2014) The 2014 Nordic Spirit Symposium at California Lutheran University will highlight Scandinavians who played major roles in the development of the Western United States.

“Scandinavians in the Old West” will be held Feb. 7 and 8 on the Thousand Oaks campus. The public is invited to join in the spirit of a symposium, which blends music, dining and the free exchange of ideas to enhance the pleasure of learning.

Jennifer Easton Attebery, director of the Folklore Program at Idaho State University, will open the Friday evening session with a discussion of how translations of Buffalo Bill dime novels and weeklies by Swedish emigrants influenced perception of the American West back home. John Mark Nielsen, executive director of the Danish Immigrant Museum in Iowa, will follow with a light-hearted overview of the novels of immigrant Kristian Ostergaard, which portrayed the important role Danes played in the Old West.

On Saturday, Ryland Penta, a student at the University of Washington, will discuss the lasting legacy of civically active Scandinavians in that state, including department store founder John Nordstrom. Judith Lähde Reynolds, co-author of a biography of Gustaf Nordenskiöld, will relate how the controversial young Swedish scientist made Mesa Verde famous long before it became a national park.

Three former CLU employees will give presentations on Saturday. Mary Hekhuis, former director of public relations at CLU, will tell how Finnish immigrant Oscar Wirkkala’s creativity and inventions revolutionized logging on the steep slopes of the Pacific Northwest. Ernst F. Tonsing, CLU professor emeritus of religion and Greek, will recount how “Three Lucky Swedes” (one of whom was Norwegian) struck it rich in the Alaska Gold Rush, founded the city of Nome and became benefactors to their home countries as well as San Francisco and Oakland. Dorothy Schechter, CLU professor emerita of music, will entertain the audience with the piano music of and stories about composer Edvard Grieg, “the rugged ‘cowboy’ individualist from the west coast of Norway.”

A reception will kick off the event at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Scandinavian Center. The symposium will conclude with dinner and entertainment at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Lundring Events Center. All presentations will be in Samuelson Chapel.

CLU and the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation are sponsoring the symposium. The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and the Norway House Foundation in San Francisco provided grants.

For prices, schedules and registration, call 805-660-3096. The early registration deadline is Jan. 18 and the deadline to sign up for the Saturday lunch and dinner is Jan. 24.







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