Danish ambassador blasted for insensitive joke

Diplomat claimed that Holger Danske will protect US town against Indian casinos

The Danish ambassador to the US, Peter Taksøe-Jensen, has come under fire after making an inappropriate joke concerning Native Americans during an event in the Danish-heritage city of Solvang in California last week.

Taksøe-Jensen finds himself in hot water due to a comment he made during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the town’s new design centre, the Copenhagen House, to unveil a hand-carved statue of the mythological sleeping hero Holger Danske, who is fabled to come alive should Denmark be threatened.

According to the local newspaper Lompoc Record, the Danish ambassador said: “He [Holger Danske] will wake up someday if some Indian casino or some other stuff tries to take over the Danishness of Solvang. He will guard that.”

The ambassador’s statement has been criticised by a number of local politicians in Solvang, who have worked hard to establish good relations with the Chumash Indian tribe population in the Santa Ynez Valley.

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Mending fences
Hans Duus, a Solvang councillor, said he cringed when he heard Taksøe-Jensen’s words and fully expected that the remarks would have ramifications.

It went fairly well until he [Taksøe-Jensen] made some comments about the casino moving into town, which ended up in the press,” Hans Duus told the Lompoc Record. “It’s such a hot button topic in the valley here, and so the tribe is very sensitive to a lot of things.”

“We’ve made strides, but over the years Solvang has not always had a great relationship with the tribe. We’ve worked hard to develop a good relationship, a trusting relationship and even though it was an ambassador from a foreign country making it [the remark], it was made in Solvang.”

Recently, the Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians have acquired a number of former Danish properties in Solvang, which was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who had migrated west to establish a Danish colony.

Among the traditional Danish architecture found in Solvang are replicas of the Little Mermaid statue and the Round Tower, a bust of Hans Christian Andersen and, of course, the new Holger Danske statue – who has yet to awaken from his slumber.