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History & Immigration > Scots in Canada > The First Scots in Canada

History: Scots in Canada

The First Scots in Canada:

Viking Ship
Viking Ship

The Vikings roamed Canada's eastern seaboard five hundred years before Columbus opened North America to the rest of Europe. In the year 1000 AD, Leif Ericsson and his crew were blown off course while sailing for Greenland, and landed in present-day Newfoundland. Ericsson called the area "Vinland" (the land of wine) for its abundance of wine berries.

According to The Saga of Erik the Red, Viking prince Thorfinn Karlsefin led an expedition to Vinland in the year 1010, taking with him a crew of 160 men, three ships, and two Scottish slaves, a man named Hake and a woman named Hekja. (Vikings had been settling in Scotland's northern islands since the 8th century, and would continue to command significant portions of the country until 1266.)

When the Viking longships moored along the Vinland coast, Hake and Hekja, renowned for their abilities to run as "swift as deer," were sent ashore to gauge whether it was safe for the rest of the crew to follow them onto land. After the Scottish slaves ran along the waterfront for the full day, attracting hostilities from neither animals nor men, the Vikings considered it safe to go ashore. Thus Hake and Hekja became the first Scots to set foot in North America.

Viking settlement, Newfoundland
Viking settlement, Newfoundland

Legend has it that another Scotsman, Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, may have traveled the Atlantic coast four hundred years later. His purported voyage captured modern imagination in the late 19th century when the story became intertwined with the mysteries of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail.

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