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Icelandic Online Dictionary and Readings

Carry On Icelandic: Culture [selections] (2004)

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Vesturfer­ir - Going West

Vesturfer­ir

┴ sÝ­asta fjˇr­ungi 19. aldar flř­u margir ═slendingar fßtŠkt og erfi­leika Ý heimalandinu og hÚldu til Vesturheims Ý von um betra lÝf. ┴ ■essum tÝma gat hi­ Ýslenska bŠndasamfÚlag ekki brau­fŠtt vaxandi Ýb˙afj÷lda og ■ar sem ■orpsmyndun var lÝtil sem engin, neyddust margir til utanfer­ar til a­ eiga von um a­ komast af. SlŠmt tÝ­arfar og eldgos juku einnig ß h÷rmungarnar. Fyrsta hˇpfer­in vestur var farin ßri­ 1873, en ß­ur h÷f­u nokkrir mormˇnar haldi­ til Utah og fßeinir einstaklingar til Wisconsin Ý BandarÝkjunum. Auk ■ess fˇru litlir hˇpar til BrasilÝu. Upp frß ■essu tˇk fˇlk a­ streyma vestur um haf og fram til ßrsins 1914 fluttu alls 15.000 ═slendingar til Vesturheims. Var ■a­ mikil blˇ­taka fyrir fßmenna ■jˇ­.

Black and white photograph

Vesturfer­irnirar voru mikil blˇ­taka fyrir Ýslenskt samfÚlag, tali­ er a­ allt a­ ■ri­jungur ■jˇ­arinnar hafi flutt af landi brott (The emigration took a heavy toll of Iceland's populace, as much as third of the population is thought to have emigrated).

Langt fram ß 20. ÷ld var til ÷flugt Ýslenskt samfÚlag vestra og eru ■eir sem fluttu vestur um haf jafnan kalla­ir Vestur-═slendingar.

Vi­ ßr■˙sundamˇt eru Kanadamenn, sem a­ einhverju e­a ÷llu leyti eru af Ýslensku bergi brotnir, taldir hßtt Ý 200 ■˙sund. Ekki er lengur liti­ ß ■ß sem Vestur-═slendinga, heldur Kanadamenn e­a ÝslenskŠtta­a Kanadamenn.

Komi­ hefur veri­ upp sÚrst÷ku minjasafni um vesturfer­irnar ß Hofsˇsi Ý Skagafir­i.

Going West

In the last quarter of the nineteenth-century, many Icelanders who were poor and in great difficulty fled their native shores and headed westwards in the hope of a better life. Iceland could not sustain that many people by farming, and since villages and other urban centers did practically not exist at the time, the only choice for poor landless people to survive was to emigrate. Poor ecological conditions and volcanic eruptions added to aldready hard times. The first group exodus west departed in the year 1873, although some Mormons had earlier made their way to Utah and a few individuals to Wisconsin in the United States. In addition, small groups travelled to Brazil. After this, people began to stream westwards by sea, and in the period to 1914 a total of 15,000 Icelanders migrated to the west. This was a great loss for such a lightly populated nation.

Far into the twentieth-century, there was a distinctive community of Icelanders in the west. Those who moved west across the sea are normally called West Icelanders.

On the arrival of the new millennium, those Canadians who are either of part or complete Icelandic origin number close to two hundred thousand. They are no longer looked upon as West Icelanders, rather Canadians or Icelandic Canadians.

A special museum about the westward journeys has been established at Hofsˇs in Skagafj÷r­ur.

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