Migration and Settlement
Because of their beliefs, Hutterites were subjected to periodic persecution which invariably resulted in migration. They moved from Czechoslovakia to Hungary, Romania, Tsarist Russia, the US, and finally to Canada. They immigrated en masse to Canada in 1918 because of harassment and persecution in the US that resulted from their refusal to participate in any type of military service. Initially, they settled in Manitoba and Alberta; later settlements were established in Saskatchewan and some were re-established in the US. In 1995 the total Hutterite population was about 30 000 - more than 66% of whom live in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, while the remainder are in the US.
Social and Cultural Life
Hutterites believe that their society can be best preserved in a rural setting, and hence agriculture has become a basic way of life. Their belief in communal living has led them to establish village-type settlements on each of their farms (or colonies, as they are known). In Manitoba the average size of a colony is about 1800 ha, but in Saskatchewan and Alberta, because of drier conditions, the colonies are each about 3600 ha. Despite these relatively large landholdings, each Hutterite family has less than 50% of the land of a typical single-family farm on the prairies. The average colony has about 13 families with a total population of about 90. When the population reaches 125 to 150, the settlements subdivide and form new colonies, on the average every 16 years. In 1995 there were 93 colonies in Manitoba, 54 in Saskatchewan and 138 in Alberta.
The Hutterite respect for the nuclear family is reflected in their provision of private apartments for each family in the row houses they traditionally build. Kindergarten facilities are provided for children from the age of 2½ years. The regular curriculum is studied in colony schools by all students, with many now proceeding to the end of grade 12. In recent times computers have become a regular classroom feature in many colonies. A few Hutterites may proceed to take special diploma courses off the colonies such as animal nutrition or veterinary science, and some take teacher training. There are now a number of fully qualified Hutterite teachers.
The structure of Hutterite colonies remains unchanged, although the nature of the particular economic activity in which they are involved may vary. Each colony elects an executive council from the managers of various enterprises, and together with the colony minister, the executive deals with important matters that will be brought before the assembly (all baptized male members - in effect, men 20 years of age and older). Although women have an official subordinate status, their informal influence on colony life is significant. They hold managerial positions in the kitchen, kindergarten, the purchase of dry goods, and vegetable production.
Although there is co-operation among the colonies, each colony operates as an independent economic unit. The Hutterites practise a highly mechanized and efficient mixed-farming economy. Because of their well-managed, large-scale operations, when compared to the amount of land they own, the Hutterites produce more than their proportionate share of agricultural produce within the prairie economy. For instance in Manitoba in 1991, Hutterites owned 144 920 hectares, or 1.9% of Manitoba farmland, but they accounted for 9.5% of Manitoba farm population. Hence, on a per capita basis they owned only 20% of their proportionate share of farmland. In 1991 each colony had an average of 1834 h, and on the basis of 15 families per colony, each family had 122 h. Since the average Manitoba farm had 301 h this means that a Hutterite family had only 40.6% of the average.
To put Hutterite agricultural productivity in perspective, on this relatively small amount of land in 1991 Hutterites accounted for over 25% of the laying hens, over 35% of the turkeys and 35% of the hogs in Manitoba. Comparable data are not available for Saskatchewan and Alberta, but the Manitoba comparisons should be basically valid in these areas as well because of the essentially similar Hutterite economic structure.
Until fairly recently, the basic nature of Hutterite settlements had been misunderstood, especially in regard to the relatively small amount of land that they own, and in relation to this their productivity and contribution to the economy had been unappreciated. This had resulted in the past in various restrictions and forms of discrimination against the Hutterites.
The survival of the Hutterites and their unique way of life is largely the result of their ability to retain their basic and fundamental beliefs, while simultaneously adopting all the features of contemporary society essential for their economic and social well-being. This strategy of survival includes uncompromising adherence to their religious beliefs and customs, retention of their ancestral German dialect, insistence on their own colony schools and a sound agricultural economy. Although some young people leave the colonies, most return; hence, assimilation is not a serious problem for the Hutterites.
See also COMMUNAL PROPERTIES ACT CASE.
Author JOHN RYAN
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Multiculturalism Day
Canadian Heritage's guide to celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada
This website offers Canadian population data (2006) by ethnic origin. Also, find information for individual provinces and territories by clicking the "Select a view" window above the chart. For more information, click on the "Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada" link at the top of the page. From the website for Statistics Canada.
The Hutterite Heritage website offers insights into their age-old community traditions, culture, and heritage.
The Hutterian Brethren
See an overview of the harsh conditions endured by Hutterites throughout history and a description of their contemporary colonies in rural Alberta.