On February 24th, 1949, Estonians and non-Estonian friends
came together to celebrate Estonian Independence Day in Edmonton. They
visited, and enjoyed music in their Estonian language and culture.
From this gathering the idea came to form an organization and work
together towards Estonian Independence, and to celebrate
historical and national dates and heritage, and finally, to
promote and enjoy Estonian culture and language. The first meeting
was held December 4th, 1949 in the social room of a church.
Since that time, Christmas services, summer festivals, exhibits of arts and
crafts and music recitals have been organized by the Edmonton
Estonian Society (EES).
The EES celebrated its 50th year of
continuous operation in 1999. During the first four decades of its
existence the focus of the Society was mainly to promote Estonian
independence from Soviet occupation and to organize social and
cultural events for the small Estonian community of mostly WWII
immigrants in the Edmonton area.
Today, in the years following
the declaration of Estonian independence in 1991, the EES is still
supported by the community and primarily involved with promoting
interest in and awareness of Estonian Albertan's rich culture and
customs. The Society also helps to coordinate visits by Estonian
politicians, diplomats, athletes and artists to Alberta. The
Society sponsors special events and celebrations of interest to
Alberta's Estonian community, which has grown to over 1,500
multi-generation descendants of the first Estonian settlers and post-WWII immigrants and their offspring.
In 1999, the Edmonton Estonian Society organized a three-day,
Alberta-wide Estonian-Canadian Centennial Celebration. The
Centennial marked the arrival of the first Estonians to settle in
Alberta and Canada in 1899, namely the districts around Sylvan
Stettler and Barons. Now, many years later, third, fourth and
fifth generation descendants are involved in remembering and
celebrating the Estonian Albertans who came before them. The
event, held in historic Linda Hall near Stettler, was the
largest-ever gathering of Alberta's Estonian community and
attracted over 500 celebrants from across Canada.
In 2000, the Estonian community hosted the President of the Republic
of Estonia, Lennart Meri. The President, an avid historian,
expressed keen interest in the history and activities of Alberta's
Another major event was held in 2001 near Gilby during the
midsummer solstice. The event celebrated the lives and
contributions of Estonian pioneers in that area.
In 2001 and 2002 the community hosted welcoming receptions for the Estonian
delegations attending the World Athletic Championships and the World University Wrestling
Championships in Edmonton. The Charge d' Affairs of the Estonian
Embassy in Ottawa, Mr. Sulev Roostar, visited Alberta in March
2002 and helped us celebrate Estonian Independence Day.
The Society issues a bi-annual newsletter, the Ajakaja. The
newsletter informs members and other Estonian organizations of
current activities, and of topics of general interest. The
newsletter maintains a bilingual format, although many articles
are in English to serve a readership of descendants who speak only
English and others who have entered mixed marriages with
English-speaking spouses. The Society draws its membership from
post-WWII immigrants and the descendants of the Estonian pioneers
who settled in central Alberta. The membership list of some 80
individuals and families includes people primarily from the
Edmonton area, but communities such as Calgary, Stettler, Red
Deer, Gilby and, and Lethbridge, to name a few, are also
represented. The Society can be contacted by e-mail at:
Reprinted with permission from the Edmonton Estonian Society.