A celebration of our common thread | In Our Opinion

Poulsbo’s Viking Fest begins today and continues through Sunday. It’s a celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17, and it also pays tribute to an important chapter in the history of this place: the contribution of Norwegian immigrants to the city’s early development.

At this time, we are reminded of the common thread that ties us to those immigrants as well as earlier residents: The natural beauty and rich environment of this place.

In a letter home to Norway in 1889, Thina Hostmark wrote of the natural beauty and wealth of resources that drew people to this place then (see page A1). Those same characteristics sustained people for millennia before the settlement era, in the place the Suquamish people knew as tcutcu lats, and it draws people here now, to the place we know as Poulsbo. Little Norway is actually a culturally diverse community:  According to the 2010 Census, 17.25 percent of Poulsbo’s population is comprised of people of African American, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Mexican, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander ancestry.

Poulsbo’s population is changing, but our responsibility is unchanged. Protecting those things that have always made tcutcu lats and Poulsbo a special place must continue to be part of our local culture.

Suquamish people fished here for millennia, sustained by abundant salmon runs. The Norwegian immigrants who came beginning in the 1880s were attracted by natural features similar to their native country. In the first half of the 1900s, giant sailing ships returned to port here, their holds filled with Alaskan cod. Fish canning and oyster packing were major industries through the first half of the 20th century.

Today, Poulsbo strives to maintain a well-balanced community, with tree-lined neighborhoods, shopping districts, parks and open space. Second-growth trees are reforesting areas once cleared for timber. Buffers ensure new construction stays away from sensitive areas such as streams and wetlands. Residents regularly watchdog the development process and speak out at public meetings. Poulsbo and Suquamish leaders work together on issues of mutual interest (the Suquamish retain treaty-guaranteed resource rights in their historical territory).

If you are a resident of Poulsbo, you have something in common with those Norwegian immigrants, as well as the indigenous people who lived here before them: You are a caretaker. The health of this place we call home depends on all of us.

If you are visiting here for Viking Fest, we say, “Velkommen til Poulsbo”  — welcome to this special place.


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