Jay Phillips Center Programs

Viking Myths of Minnesota's Kensington Rune Stone: And What They Reveal about the (Mis)Shaping of Identity in the Face of the Religious and Racial Other

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In 1898, a Swedish immigrant farmer claimed to have discovered a large rock with writing carved into its surface in a Minnesota field. The inscription told a North American origin story, predating Christopher Columbus’s exploration, in which Viking missionaries reached what is now Minnesota in 1362 only to be massacred by Indians. The tale’s credibility was quickly challenged and ultimately undermined by experts, but the myth took hold. For Scandinavian immigrants, the Kensington Rune Stone yielded evidence that they had deep historical roots in their new American home. However, this “homemaking myth” also cast Minnesota’s first residents as “pagans” and “savages” who deserved to be removed to make way for a white, Christian society. In this lecture, Dr. Krueger will discuss what Minnesota’s Viking myths reveal about anxieties related to religious and racial diversity that persist to the present day.

David M. Krueger, Ph.D., is a storyteller, scholar, author, and educator who is passionate about public history and social justice. His areas of expertise include American religious history, violence, myths, and popular culture. Dr. Krueger is a sought-after lecturer and speaker and has frequently served as an on-camera scholarly contributor with the Travel Channel and the Science Channel. He received a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University. The author of Myths of the Rune Stone: Viking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), Dr. Krueger is a versatile and seasoned educator who has taught at several colleges and universities and community-based settings. He works as a media and education consultant for The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and provides scholarly direction for a U.S. State Department program on religious pluralism run by the Dialogue Institute at Temple University. Although he grew up as a farm kid in Minnesota, he has come to love Philadelphia and its fascinating history since moving there in 1995. Articles and essays he has written have appeared in several media outlets including the Religion Dispatches, the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (forthcoming), and Marginalia: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel. He is certified by the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides to offer guided tours of religious and historical sites in the city.

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