Independent Order of Vikings

This fraternal benefit society originated in Chicago, Illinois, in 1896. It was founded by a group of fraternally minded Swedes to provide insurance benefits for its members.

The society, like other fraternal groups, contributes to a number of fraternal programs. Each year it disburses an amount to the aged and needy members in its subordinate lodges. Also, scholarships are awarded to high school seniors who were members of the IOV. Some of the local units have their members visit hospitals and other needy members. Still other local lodges conduct blood donor clinics.

On the social, cultural level the IOV tries to acquaint its members with Scandinavian customs and traditions. Some lodges conduct classes for those interested in learning Scandinavian languages. Others have singers and dancers who put on programs of Scandinavian songs and dances. Still others engage in athletic events such as golfing and bowling.

Membership is open to Swedes or those of Swedish descent. Individuals married to someone of Swedish background may also join. When the order first was founded only Swedish males were eligible for membership. Currently (2004) the membership count stands at approximately 7,243 in twenty-seven local lodges. This figure represents a 30 percent decline since the mid-1960s when the society had more than 10,500 members in eighty lodges.

Local units are known as "Lodges." The national body is called the "Grand Lodge." The principal officer is named Grand Chief. The grand lodge convenes every two years. Headquarters are housed in Chicago, Illinois.