Declaring May “Nordic Month”
The immigrants came to the Pacific Northwest for opportunities they didn’t have in the “old country.” They arrived to a climate similar to the Nordic countries they left and immediately went to work in the growing logging and fishing industries of the city that would be called Seattle. Over a century after their arrival, the descendants of those newcomers are celebrating their heritage and at the April 30 meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council, that celebration was recognized as the Council declared the month of May “Nordic Month” in King County.
“Our Nordic ancestors have played an enormous role in the development and character of King County,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, sponsor of the proclamation. “The new Nordic Museum has been years in the making and it stands as an important reminder of the positive impact immigrants have had and continue to make on our country and community. I was pleased to assist in securing funding for this beautiful new facility at the state level.”
Before there was a city of Seattle, there were Norwegians arriving on our shores by the thousands. By 1910, more than 7,000 Norwegians lived and worked in the region and about one-third of Seattle's foreign-born residents hailed from Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland.
The newcomers went to the sea, playing an enormous role in bolstering our regional fishing fleet, now one of the world's largest distant water fleets. They went to the forest to cut timber, but the newcomers also went to the fields, building farms and growing crops in the fertile soil.
A year after Seattle became a city, those who have arrived from Norway started celebrating their homeland’s independence. In 1889, the first “Syttende Mai” event was held, which celebrates May 17, the day in 1814 when Norway declared its independence by signing its constitution. “Syttende Mai” is still celebrated in the Ballard neighborhood, with the largest Syttende Mai celebration outside of Oslo, Norway.
This year’s celebration will have special significance as the region also recognizes the grand opening of the new Nordic Museum set for May 5. The grand opening of the new facility will include visits from ambassadors of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), as well as the president of Iceland and the Crown Princess of Denmark.
On Tuesday, the museum held a grand opening preview reception for members, board members, volunteers, elected officials and other members of the community. Kohl-Welles spoke at the event and delivered some of her remarks in Norwegian.
| Councilmembers are joined by representatives of the Nordic Museum
after the council declared May “Nordic Month” in King County.
Front Row (l-r) Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Sheila Stickel,
Communications Nordic Museum, Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles,
Eric Nelson, CEO, Nordic Museum, Jan Colbrese, Director of External Affairs, Nordic Museum, and Councilmember Larry Gossett.
Back Row (l-r) Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove, Joe McDermott,
Claudia Balducci, Reagan Dunn, Rod Dembowski
and Pete von Reichabuer
WHEREAS, the history and culture of King County have been shaped and enriched by the diverse cultures that make up our community, and Nordic immigrants—with ancestry from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—have contributed to the strength and vitality of King County in countless ways; and
WHEREAS, since 1980, the Nordic Heritage Museum has told the story of Nordic immigration to our region and offered classes and cultural programs in a quaint but aging school in a remote neighborhood; and
WHEREAS, on May 5th, a 20-year effort involving thousands of donors and volunteers culminates in the grand opening of a new and world-class Nordic Museum on Market Street, located in the heart of the historically Nordic Ballard neighborhood and acclaimed as one of the most significant new museums in the world this year; and
WHEREAS, funding for the new museum has been provided in part by the City of Seattle, King County, and Washington State, among others; and
WHEREAS, the new Nordic Museum will celebrate Nordic and Nordic American history, attract internationally significant exhibits, and share Nordic values and policies, such as openness, social equity, innovation, and environmental sustainability, with the entire community; and
WHEREAS, the Museum has partnered with civic and community organizations across King County and throughout the Nordic countries to create “Nordic Seattle,” a series of events throughout May showcasing the diverse music, literature, arts, and culture of the Nordic region;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, proclaim May 2018 as
|NORDIC SEATTLE MONTH
in King County to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Nordic immigrants and culture to both the history and the future of our county.
DATED this thirtieth day of April, 2018.