History and Heritage

Land Acknowledgement Statement
We stand on the homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who have stewarded the land throughout the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region.

Land Acknowledgement Full Statement
We stand on the homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who have stewarded the land throughout the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed against the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.

What is a Land Acknowledgment Statement?
A land acknowledgement is a formal statement from a city, province, state, institution of higher education, or other cultural institution that affirms and recognizes the Indigenous peoples of a particular place and their historic, ongoing, and future relationships with those lands and waters.

St. Olaf’s Land Acknowledgement
St. Olaf finalized its land acknowledgement statement in November 2020 through participation in a joint task force with the City of Northfield and Carleton College. Special recognition goes to St. Olaf Associate Professor of English Joan Hepburn, who wrote the land acknowledgement that the task force adopted and these institutions are now using.

Why do we provide this Statement?
“To acknowledge the traditional territory is to recognize its longer history, reaching beyond colonization and the establishment of European colonies, as well as its significance for the Indigenous peoples who lived and continue to live upon this territory, and whose practices and spiritualities were tied to the land and continue to develop in relationship to the land and its other inhabitants today.”
University of Alberta

Learn More about our History and Heritage 
A group of pioneer pastors, farmers, and businessmen in Rice, Dakota, and Goodhue counties, under the leadership of the Rev. Bernt Julius Muus, the Rev. N.A. Quammen, and Harald Thorson, laid the groundwork for the college’s founding in 1874. The purpose of the school, then as now, was to offer a program of liberal studies to students preparing for careers in business, politics, the clergy, and other professions.

In choosing a name for the institution, the founders responded to strong Norwegian national and religious symbolism celebrating the splendor of the Nordic middle ages. They named the school for Olav II Haraldsson (spelled “Olaf” in the 19th century), king of Norway from 1016 until 1030. His martyrdom on July 29, 1030, at the Battle of Stiklestad, close to Pastor Muus’s own place of birth, made him Norway’s patron saint and eternal king and secured a national monarchy and the position of the Christian church in that country.

St. Olaf’s School was operated as an academy until 1886, when a college department was added. The name was changed to St. Olaf College in 1889, and the first college class graduated in 1890. Affiliated with the Lutheran Church throughout its history, St. Olaf remains a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Many influences have combined to make St. Olaf what it is today. Remaining dedicated to the high standards set by its Norwegian immigrant founders, the college has made a significant contribution to American liberal arts education while maintaining an academic center with a strong program for the study of Scandinavian culture. The rich St. Olaf tradition in music has gained worldwide renown for the college through its choirs and instrumental organizations.