Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway concluded her visit to Minnesota for the first time in a decade. The four-day trip highlighted bilateral relations between the United States and Norway.
Governor Tim Walz first welcomed the Queen on Thursday for the 49th anniversary of the Minnesota National Guard’s exchange program with the Norwegian Home Guard.
“There are at least 900,000 Minnesotans who show their ancestry back to Norway, the importance of those cultural ties cannot be understated in Minnesota,” Walz said. “The people of Minnesota take great pride in this relationship. We take great pride in the accomplishments, from the arts, to the sciences and to economics that Norwegian Minnesotans have added.”
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The troop exchange program between Minnesota and Norway is the longest-running military partnership between two nations. As part of the exchange program, 100 members of the Minnesota National Guard travel to Norway each year to train and 100 Norwegian Home Guard members come to Minnesota to train at Camp Ripley.
After their visit with the governor, the Queen toured St. Olaf College, a 175-year-old liberal arts college founded by Norwegian pastors, where she met President David R. Anderson and Student Government Associate President Sebastian Pham.
The Queen participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Special Collections Vault within the college’s Rølvaag Memorial Library. The vault contains printed materials from the 15th century onward including letters from the earliest Norwegian immigrants to their families.
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The Queen finished her trip by attending Sunday service at Mindekirken, a century old Lutheran church in Minneapolis. The church is known as being one of two in the United States which offer services in Norwegian.
“It’s extraordinary to realize that, one hundred years after, Mindekirken is still fulfilling that purpose,” she said to the nearly 500 people in attendance. “I am certain that Mindekirken in its next century will continue to bring together people who are passionate about preserving our traditions. I wish you a wonderful continued anniversary.”
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The United States and Norway have had close bilateral relations since the independence of both countries. The United States’ Constitution heavily inspired the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 and from 1825-1940 more than 850,000 Norwegians emigrated to the U.S.
The majority of these immigrants settled in the Midwest, specifically Minnesota and the Dakotas, and due to their high birthrate there are currently more Americans claiming Norwegian descent than Norwegians.
On the special relationship, the Queen commented “We both fought hard for our independence, and we both have some of the oldest constitutions in the world. We share hopes, fears, values, and dreams for the future.”