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Brad Swenson, Bemidji Pioneer, Published July 13 2009

Language village dean knighted

SKOGFJORDEN – The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Knight of the First Class, was bestowed here Saturday to Tove Irene Dahl, longtime dean of the Norwegian Language Village.

In a knighting ceremony that lasted two hours at Concordia Language Villages’ Skogfjorden northeast of Bemidji, there were speeches, dances and songs to mark the Bemidji area’s first knighthood.

The award notes Dahl’s accomplishments as dean of Skogfjorden for 27 years “and her enthusiasm and skills to (teach) all these young people about the Norwegian language, but also the Norwegian way of living and the culture,” said Elin Bergithe Rognlie, minister counselor at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., who presented the honor.

Knighting by King Harald VI is taken seriously in Norway, she said, an occasion “more formal” than at Skogfjorden, where the ceremony was held in the woods in front of a building with a porch, used as a stage. Most of the 200 observers sat in folding chairs, but there were benches with rosemaling throughout the break in the woods.

The Order of Merit was established in 1985 to honor Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans and foreign nationals.

It “may be conferred to Norwegians and foreign nationals in recognition of particularly meritorious services to Norway,” Rognlie said.

“It has pleased His Majesty to honor Tove Irene Dahl in this way in acknowledgement of her work for the advancement of Norwegian language and culture in the United States,” she added.

Immediately after the knighthood was bestowed, the crowd broke into a prolonged cheer and hand clapping, capped by Skogfjorden students singing a song in her honor in Norwegian, which included her name.

“Skogfjorden is more things, more stories, more wonderful than any one person can represent or can contain,” Dahl said in accepting her honor, trying to deflect it to include the Norwegian language camp itself, not just her.

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