A branch from my Norwegian family tree was replanted in 1930 when my maternal grandfather, Robert “Opofte” Hansen (far right), immigrated from southern Norway to northwest Minnesota. At the age of 18, just a ‘sapling’ himself, he left his world as he knew it and made the journey to America through Ellis Island in New York.
Robert would meet my grandmother, Edith Olson, and together they planted their roots of their American family tree and raised four first generation Norwegian-American children in the heartland of America. I am proud to be a second generation Norwegian-American.
When I was twelve years old. I became pen-pals with my cousin Siv Linda in Norway, our mothers are first cousins. For Siv Linda, it began as a school project to practice learning and writing English. Unbeknownst to me, it was the first step onto the winding path that brings me here today. Grandpa Hanson passed away just before his 63rd birthday, a few months before my 4th birthday. He missed sharing in our lives, including my three visits to Norway in 1994, 1997 and 1997 as well as the number of visits from family there to here.
While studying art and graphic design at the University of North Dakota, I discovered a deeper passion for my family’s heritage when I enrolled in Norwegian 101. This led me to joining the UND Scandinavian Club, which turned into taking Norwegian 201, 301 and on to studying abroad with the International Summer School in Oslo, Norway. These experiences opened a new world to me of the traditions carried over from the old world connecting me with my Norwegian family, learning a new language, exploring and embracing the rich heritage and traditions that merely dotted the North Dakota community where I grew up.
The Norway Dakota Company is the culmination of my passion and purpose. Embracing the importance of preserving and sharing the appreciation of all heritage traditions for generations to come. Encouraging and helping young people explore their heritage through song, story, dance, language, athletics, art, costumes and food where fundraising is often a necessity.
With our high quality collectible pins and novelties with artful designs of flags and fun themes of cultural celebration, The Norway Dakota Company provides a unique and complementary fundraising product line to candles, candy and food products. When implemented into fundraising endeavors, the vision of The Norway Dakota Company supports language, dance and heritage groups with their passion and purpose.
PHOTO: Easter 1975: me with Grandpa Hanson during a phone call 'home' to Norway. He passed a year later just shy of his 63rd birthday. | 1994: I had just turned 22 years old when I arrived in Norway for the six-week summer school program in Oslo. I then spent a week with family in southern Norway where they held a family gathering at the original family farmstead. There was not a dry eye 'in the house'.