Many a fifth grade rebel has relished the opportunity to point out that Leif Erikson was in the New World long before Christopher Columbus. But how many of those fifth graders know what proof we have of Leif's visit?
In recent years, the evidence for the presence of Scandinavian explorers in North America before 1000 A.D. seems to grow every month. We have long-house foundations at L'Anse aux Meadows and tools for spinning wool at a time when native Americans wore only animal skins. We have copper-alloy boat rivets when the native cultures were only working with stone and bone. The Kensington "runestone" goes in and out of favor but there are lately other indications that Scandinavians explored and traded deep into this continent.
The Vikings of North America reenactment organization was formed to share knowledge of these amazing explorers and to fairly represent the peoples we collectively refer to as Vikings. We cultivate all the skills needed to survive in the Viking era and we share what we have learned freely with anyone interested. Our goal is to educate ourselves and others about the challenges these explorers and settlers faced and about the historical realities of life in the Viking age.
We are guided first by archeology, keeping our representation close to the recorded physical culture left behind in Viking era settlements. We have strict rules concerning the fabrics and dyes used in our reenactor clothing and the use of metals, bone, leather and fur. We disallow modern items that would "break the spell." Our aim is to provide an accurate and educational portrayal of the Viking period, with an emphasis on the daily life of the period. And now and again, we have a little fun reenacting the more warlike aspects of life in what was a formative period in European history.
There are many ways to participate. Some simply enjoy studying the Vikings and participating in informed discussion. Others are experimental archeologists with their own "need to know"--a passion to learn about textiles, paint, weaving, woodworking, blacksmithing and even iron smelting. Many enjoy living in a Viking period encampment, experiencing firsthand the challenges of daily life in a former age (even if only for the weekend). And some are looking for the warrior life, recreating Viking combat and reliving great battles. If you want to get involved, get in touch with your nearest VNA group or join us on Facebook.
Many of our members are available for school visits (in character) and our groups can add education and thrills to your local festivals. Contact us to find out who is available in your area. We were all once fifth graders, too. The difference is that now we know what Leif left behind--spindle whorls, ship rivets, ring pins--and we can probably pull one out of our bag to show you.