This is the story of Gudrid “the Far Traveler”

Around 1002 CE, an Icelandic immigrant, Gudrid “the Far Traveler” settled in Eastern Canada, where she gave birth to a son, Snorri, the first recorded birth to a European traveler in the Americas. Gudrid had traveled 3,000 miles in small viking sailing and rowing vessels across the stormy north Atlantic to reach her new home.

According to the Icelandic Sagas, Gudrid first settled in Greenland, and then sailed with her family westward to the region they called Vinland. Gudrid occasionally traded cow’s milk and woven cloth for furs brought by nomadic Amerindians. The Amerindians had recently immigrated into the area, their ancestors having walked all the way from Asia over the Bering Strait to Alaska, followed by 4,000 miles across Canada to the Atlantic.

Gudrid and the Amerindians benefited from their interactions. America had no cattle that could be domesticated and milked and the Amerindians did not weave cloth, so they welcomed Gudrid’s goods. The furs from unfamiliar animals were in return highly valued by Gudrid and the Scandinavians.

The history of migration is a history of human interactions, of trading goods, learning new skills, fostering respect, falling in love, building families and societies, but also adjusting to one another, overcoming differences, suspicions, and facing conflicts.

After sporadic hostilities with the Amerindians, Gudrid and her group departed and, in a return-migration, sailed back to Greenland. Later, she moved to Iceland and then probably on to Norway. However brief these encounters between Amerindians and Scandinavians had been, human migrations had, by that time, encircled the globe.

Statue of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, Icelandic explorer, and her son Snorri by Charles Fergus

Tinna Stengaard