Kotkajärve Metsaülikool (the Forest University of Eagle Lake), a summerly gathering of Estonians in the Canadian province of Ontario that celebrated its 50th anniversary in August, adopted a statement, calling for Estonians to be recognised as the indigenous people of the country’s territory.
Marking the 50th anniversary of Kotkajärve Metsaülikool, the participants greet and congratulate all Estonians as the republic approaches its 100th birthday.
This year, Metsaülikool focused on indigenous peoples. We are aware that indigenous people have been the most successful preservationists of the natural environment, heritage culture and languages worldwide. We are satisfied that the Estonian people adhere to all the basic criteria and obligations as delineated in the convention on indigenous populations. We therefore urge that Estonians be recognised as the indigenous people of the territory that has been their ethnic and linguistic home.
Electoral districts for expat citizens
Since one fifth of Estonians live abroad – approximately 200,000 – with some also maintaining dual residences, we urge the consideration of one (or more) electoral districts for expatriate citizens. Estonians abroad hold the same convictions as the four fifths in their homeland in helping maintain the vibrancy and longevity of the country and people. We urge an increased effort in applying our individual special knowledge and international experience to benefit our country and people. Expat Estonians have not abandoned their heritage but should be viewed as a potential resource in enhancing Estonia`s presence and influence internationally.
There is also a critical need for an Estonian world-wide web, currently known as Estica – Worldwide Estonia, under development by both expat and domestic experts. We offer our full assistance in its completion and call upon all to contribute both financially and intellectually.
We seriously recommend all Estonian scholars and specialists to contribute articles to the Estonian and also English language Wikipedia. This is the initial source of information when searching the web for details regarding Estonian culture, language, history and the republic. We foresee the need for one million Estonian articles and the advocacy of increased information about Estonia in other Wikipedia languages. As of 25 August 2017, 160,000 articles have been initiated and the necessary supplements and additions depend on how vital we ourselves see the importance of Estonian information in Wikipedia.
Preservation of culture and language
Kotkajärve Metsaülikool was established one half century ago by young Estonians in Canada who were concerned about the situation in occupied Estonia and the preservation of Estonian culture and language amongst subsequent generations of Estonian refugees. Metsaülikool is meant for all worldwide who have an interest in anything Estonian. Over years some 2,000 individuals from North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, including Estonia, have participated. The primary aim of Metsaülikool is the maintenance and teaching of Estonian within Estonian groups abroad and providing the experience of Estonian language immersion.
Mestsaülikool has been the model for similar initiatives in Sweden, Australia, the US and also Estonia. Such institutions have helped us better understand Estonian history, politics and culture. Metsaülikool has built a sturdy bridge between our communities abroad and in our homeland.
The opinions in this article are those of the authors. Read also: Canada’s “Forest University”: connecting to what is intrinsically Estonian. The cover image is illustrative (Paul Meiesaar/Visit Estonia.)