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We, Norwegian Americans, are the successors of Norwegian immigrants who came to the United States in the later half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. We have the contribution of more than 4.5 million people in the population of America (Wikipedia). Though we were spread everywhere in America but mainly we live in the Upper Midwest and West.
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We are supposed to be the first Europeans to discover America. Most of us who first migrated to America were farmers and fishers. Due to our quiet and simple way of living, we were oppressed in our homeland and the first group of us migrated to America in 1825 and after it was followed by others. That time it was considered that only the descendant of a Norwegian parent who had The US citizenship was a Norwegian American.
Now ethnic membership in the United States has turned into subjective through the new aspect of Census 2000, which is called ‘subjective identification’. According to this if anybody feels that he is a Norwegian American then he is. This rule says that anyone whether a black, an Eskimo or a Latino has the right to think that he is a Norwegian American.
The main reasons that forced us to leave our country, Norway, were poverty, growth of population, national dependency, religious containment and fighting for the freedom from Sweden and World War I. For getting better living many of us left our old country. Economical condition became the major cause of migration.
Social and Political differences between America and Norway compelled us to migrate to the United States. In Norway, social system used to be very strict. Lower status people had to show the respect to the higher class publicly. On the other hand the United States did not have such kind of discrimination so we found it an interesting place to live. Politically also we got more freedom in United States such as right of vote.
Economically also we found this place much more attractive. In the United States there were many job opportunities and also the wages were higher than Norway. The earning potential was too good. Many newspaper and authors in Norway appreciated the job possibilities in America. In the period of 1864, The Bergenposten gave the advertisement for many mining jobs in Lake Superior region.
Earlier Norwegian settlers in America used to send letters to their family members and friends back to their homeland about the advantages of living in the United States and request them to give them company. They were successful also in calling the higher rate of migrants to join them. First these migrants join the original Norwegian settlements but later they decided to move in the west direction where the land was abundant and not that expensive. Many farmers and laborers settled themselves there.
After the Dakota conflict of 1862 and the Civil War Norwegian settlement expanded to the Minnesota River Valley where it was easy to find a land through the treaty of Traverse des Sioux.
December 19, 1894, the leading Norwegian newspaper, Scandinavian of Chicago published an article with the subtitle “C.P. Railway Lures Norwegian Farmers Out into the Wilderness” that said the story of the farmers in America how they had been unfortunate in the United States and were in ‘debt over their ears’. It said in details how the Canadians helped these farmers in paying of their mortgages. The paper also told how these poor farmers in Minnesota and Dakotas became debt prisons. In the United states the financial condition of farm laborers became terrible. It was estimated that by the period of 1910, approximately half of the farms in Dakota were mortgaged. In the area of Red River Valley, the tenants used to pay high rentals and the cost of the production was also high (Bjork, Kenneth O., 2005).
On the other hand, high land value proved a boon to owners and they could sell their lands on good rates and equally could purchase a good land at lower prices.
Immigrants faced different problems than the pioneers during the period of mass migration. They faced all kind of problems such as social, political and personal problems during the process of migration, assimilation and acculturation (Zempel, 1991, p. xi, xii).
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