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Hutterite Families

Kinship Structure, The House Child, Kindergarten, School, Adolescence, Marriage, Fertility, Later Life

The Hutterites are an Anabaptist group, along with the Amish and the Mennonites. Jacob Hutter founded the religion in central Europe in the middle 1500s. The official name of the religion is the Hutterian Brethren. Today, they total about 45,000 members living in more than 400 colonies. They are the oldest family communal group in the Western world, but they consider the community to be more important than the family. They believe that salvation is found in total submission to the group, which is more important than the individual. One of their original basic tenets was that believing Hutterites must separate from nonbelieving spouses (Huntington 1997).

Continually persecuted, many Hutterites moved to Russia in 1770 where they were promised tolerance of their beliefs and practices. This lasted for about a century before the czars forced them into the national schools and the military. Between 1874 and 1877, all 800 surviving Hutterites immigrated to the United States. About half of them were not practicing communal living and eventually joined the Mennonites. The others settled in South Dakota into three colonies, each with a different leader. From then to the present day each of these groups, or Leut, maintains its own council of elders, has minor differences in customs, and seldom intermarries, although relations are friendly across groups. From most to least conservative in their practices, they are called the Lehrerleut, the Dariusleut, and the Schmeideleut.

World War I brought persecution from the U.S. government because the Hutterites refused to serve in the military, so as a group they made arrangements with the Canadian government, which granted them immunity from the draft. As a result, almost all of them moved to western Canada. They now have colonies in Montana and eastern Washington as well.

Originally craftsmen, they turned to agriculture when the Industrial Revolution made their skills obsolete (Peter 1971). The Hutterites live together in communities and speak a German dialect as well as English. Unlike the Amish, they do accept and use modern devices such as automotive equipment and electricity. Each community, or Bruderhof (a colony within a Leut), is administered by a council of six men, usually elected for life. The preacher is the spiritual leader. There is also a business manager, a farm boss, and a German teacher (Kephart 1976). They live in apartment buildings of their own making.

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