What Makes Canada a First World Country

Vikings - Canada's first settlers

Leif Eriksson lands on the coast

The Northmen called the natives "Skraelingers", which means "weaklings". Today it is not possible to exactly determine whether it was about the Indians or the Inuit. Because the experts are still divided on exactly where Leif Eriksson, the lucky son of Erik the Red, landed on the North American coast in 1000 AD.

Is his "Vinland", as the newly discovered area was called, in Newfoundland, Cape Cod or even Florida? And where does the name come from? Does the term "Vin" stand for the vines that the explorers are said to have found there or for the lush pastureland that impressed them?

A Viking settlement in North America

The Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad probably discovered the legendary Vinland in Newfoundland. There, at the northernmost tip of the island, more precisely in L’Anse aux Meadows, he and his wife Anne Stine excavated a Viking settlement from around 1000 AD in the 1960s.

They found eight old Norse houses and in the ruins numerous objects similar to those found during excavations on Iceland and Greenland. Slag from an iron forge was also found, as well as a large number of iron ship nails.

All of this made the researchers certain they discovered a Viking settlement, the only one known in North America. In 1978 Unesco declared it a World Heritage Site.

Two houses were rebuilt true to the original and are now a tourist attraction. The settlement was probably only inhabited for a few years. Whether fighting with the "Skraelingen" led to the withdrawal of the Northmen, like so many other things, is not clear.

Goods from the New World

There was hardly ever any doubt about two other countries that Leif Eriksson christened on his trip: Helluland - land with flat stones - is Baffin Island, and Markland - woodland - today's Labrador. The Vikings made many trips to the North American coast.

They even brought some coveted goods to the European courts of the Middle Ages: "ivory" from walruses, live polar bears, and eiderdown. As "Tunnit" they went down in Inuit legends. In the 14th century, however, the Vikings withdrew from Greenland for unexplained reasons - and the crossings to North America also came to an end.