You just read
about Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering America.
There was, however, another man who reached American soil long
before Columbus, his name is Leif Ericson. Born in 975,
Leif Ericson was a Viking sailor who lived in Greenland.
According to one legend, Leif left
Greenland around the year 1000 and sailed to his native country of Norway.
While in Norway he was converted to Christianity
and was told to go back to Greenland and convert the rest of his Viking
clansmen to the Christian faith. Leif began his journey
back to Greenland, but was blown off course and lost his
way. The next time he and his crew saw land it was the North American shore.
Another story states that
an Icelandic trader by the name
of Bjarni first sighted land in North America but did not come
ashore. He later met Leif and told him of his sighting.
Afterward Leif retraced Bjarni's voyage and landed somewhere
in what is now Canada. The precise location of Leif Ericson's
landing is unknown but remains of a Viking type settlement
found in Newfoundland in 1963 lead many to believe he settled
there at least for a while.
You have just read about two men.
One, Christopher Columbus, has been hearlded as the
discoverer of "A New World." From grade school through university,
Americans in the United States are taught that Columbus discovered America.
The other, Leif Ericson, is hardly ever mentioned
in history or history class; yet, he was actually the first European to land in North American.
So, why is it that Columbas receives the credit for discovering America eventhough
Leif Ericson landed in America almost 500 years earlier than Columbus?
There are many theories. One is that Columbus
brought greater change to the Americas than Ericson. This is especially true when you
remember that Columbus made 4 voyages to the Americas from 1492 to 1504. Each time he brought
with him new settlers and had more interaction with the native inhabitants.
On the other hand, it is not known how long Leif
Ericson stayed in North America before
returning to his home in Greenland. It is also not clear exactly how much, if any,
interaction he had with native Americans. Some people beleive that Ericson left
North America because of attacks by native Americans against him and his family.
Whether this is true or not is not clear; but, one thing is clear,
Columbus had a much greater impact on America and its settlement than Ericson which is
why he receives the credit for discovering "The New World."