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Norway's queen meets with Gov. Tim Walz at Minnesota Capitol

Queen Sonja and King Harald of Norway last visited Minnesota in 2011. It’s the fifth time Norway’s queen has been to Minnesota. The governor, queen and military leaders from both countries gathered at the Capitol to commemorate nearly half a century of military cooperation between Minnesota and Norway through a military training exchange program.

QUEEN VISIT
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Queen Sonja of Norway, followed by Norwegian Ambassador Anniken Krutnes, walk down the west steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul Thursday, Oct. 13, after a late-morning meeting. The queen is on a four-day visit to Minnesota.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz met with Queen Sonja of Norway at the state Capitol Thursday, Oct. 13, as the visiting monarch begins a four-day trip around the state — the first royal visit to Minnesota in a decade.

The governor, queen and military leaders from both countries gathered at the Capitol to commemorate nearly half a century of military cooperation between Minnesota and Norway through a troop exchange program. Addressing reporters and National Guard Members in the Capitol reception room Thursday morning, Walz noted the special connection between Norway and Minnesota, a state where around 900,000 people claim Norwegian ancestry.

“This Norway-Minnesota connection is legendary,” the governor said. “The ties between Norway culturally, socially, economically, and security, literally go back to the founding of our state. These ties have been strengthened over many, many years of mutual exchanges.”

Queen Sonja’s visit is the first time a monarch has visited Minnesota since October 2012, when King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden traveled to the state, a Walz spokesperson said. Queen Sonja and King Harald of Norway last visited Minnesota in 2011. It’s the fifth time Norway’s queen has been to Minnesota. She's here to highlight the connections between Norwegian Americans and Norway.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Queen Sonja of Norway pose for a photo with U.S. and Norwegian military leaders standing to the right and left.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Queen Sonja visits as Minnesota and Norway prepare to mark the 50th year of a military exchange program between the two countries known as Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange, or NOREX. Each year about 100 soldiers from Minnesota travel to Trondheim, Norway, for military training with the country’s Home Guard, or Heimevernet. Meanwhile, soldiers from Norway travel to Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minnesota, each year to train with American troops. It’s the longest-running military exchange program between the U.S. and an ally, according to the Minnesota National Guard.

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But the military relationship between Minnesota and Norway goes back even further than the exchange program. During World War II, Norwegian-speaking Minnesotans and Dakotans served in OSS units that helped the Norwegian resistance to German occupation, engaging in daring sabotage missions against Nazi forces in the war's final months.

Walz pointed out in the Capitol reception room several large paintings of Minnesotan troops serving in the Civil War. The state was the first to send volunteers in the fight to preserve the Union.

“I was mentioning to Her Majesty in this room the famous depictions of the battles of the American Civil War and of the Minnesotans,” he said. “And I think it's probably well-known to many here many of those would be Norwegian immigrants.”

The relationship between Norway and Minnesota extends beyond the annual military exchange program. Whether it’s cross-country skiing, the outdoors or values, Norwegian Americans in Minnesota have much in common with Norwegians who remained at home, said Anniken Krutnes, Norway’s ambassador to the U.S.

“We've heard how Norway and Minnesota cooperate militarily. But the cooperation between our two countries encompasses many other topics as well. We collaborate on Arctic issues, climate change, green economy, global health challenges, trade, human rights and business.”

Besides visiting with local political leaders, the queen will also visit St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. On Saturday she will speak at the opening ceremony for a new cultural center built by Norway House, a Minneapolis culture and arts organization dedicated to strengthening ties between Norway and the U.S.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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