Hutterites are a communal branch of Anabaptists who, like the Amish and Mennonites, trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century.


Originating in the Austrian province of Tyrol in the 16th century, the forerunners of the Hutterites migrated to Moravia to escape persecution. There, under the leadership of Jakob Hutter, they developed the communal form of living based on the New Testament books of the Acts of the Apostles (Chapters 2 (especially Verse 44), 4, and 5) and 2 Corinthians which distinguishes them from other Anabaptists such as the Amish and Mennonites.

A basic tenet of Hutterian society has always been absolute Pacifism, forbidding its members from taking part in military activities, taking orders, wearing a formal uniform (such as a soldier's or a police officer's) or contributing war taxes. This has led to expulsion or persecution in the several lands in which they have lived. In Bohemia, the Hutterites flourished for over a century, until renewed persecution forced them once again to migrate, first to Transylvania, and, then, in the early 18th century, to the Ukraine, in the Russian Empire. Some Hutterites converted to Catholicism and retained a separate ethnic identity in Slovakia as the Habans until the 19th century (by the end of World War II, the Haban group had become essentially extinct). In Ukraine, the Hutterites enjoyed relative prosperity, although their distinctive communal life was suppressed by the influence of the neighboring Mennonites. In time, though, Russia had installed a new compulsory military service law, and the pressure was on again.

After sending scouts to North America in 1873 in tandem with a Mennonite delegation, another mass migration occurred from 1874 to 1879 as three waves of 18,000 Hutterites left for the New World in response to the new Russian military service law. Named for the leaders of each wave, all three of the three groupings (the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut, and Lehrerleut, leut being based on the German word for people) settled initially in the Dakota Territory; later, Dariusleut colonies were established in central Montana. Here, each group reestablished the traditional Hutterite communal lifestyle.

During World War I, the pacifist Hutterites also suffered persecution in the United States. In the most famous case, four Hutterite men subjected to military draft who refused to comply were imprisoned and tortured. Ultimately, two died at Leavenworth Military Prison from mistreatment, after the Armistice had been signed ending the war.

The Hutterite community responded by abandoning Dakota and moving 17 of the 18 existing American colonies to the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. With the passage of laws protecting conscientious objectors, however, some of the Schmiedeleut ultimately returned to the Dakotas, beginning in the 1930s, where they built and inhabited new colonies (some of the abandoned structures from the first wave still stand in South Dakota).

In 1942, alarmed at the influx of Dakota Hutterites buying copious tracts of land, the province of Alberta passed the Communal Properties Act, severely restricting the expansion of the Dariusleut and Lehrerleut colonies (the act was repealed in 1973, allowing Hutterites to purchase land). This act resulted in the establishment of a number of new colonies in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, at the same time expansion was seen into Montana and eastern Washington, in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, approximately three of every four Hutterite colonies are in Canada (mostly in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), with almost all of the remainder in the United States (primarily South Dakota and Montana). The total Hutterite population in both countries is generally estimated between forty and fifty thousand.

For a few years in the early 1950s, and in 1974–1990, the Arnoldleut (or Bruderhof Communities) were recognized as Hutterites. Although most Hutterites live in the Midwestern United States and in Western Canada, Hutterite colonies have been established in Nigeria and Japan.


Hutterite communities, called "colonies", are all rural; many depend largely on farming or ranching, depending on their locale, for their income. More and more colonies are getting into manufacturing as its gets harder to make a living on farming alone. The colony is virtually or literally self-sufficient, constructing its own buildings, doing its own maintenance and repair on equipment, making its own clothes, etc.


Hutterite colonies are male-managed with women participating in stereotypically feminine roles such as cooking, medical decisions and selection and purchase of fabric for clothing. The colony's manager is the Minister, with his wife holding the title of Schneider (from German "tailor"), thus she is in charge of clothing making or purchasing.

Community ownershipEdit

Hutterites practice a near-total community of goods: all property is owned by the colony, and provisions for individual members and their families come from the common resources. This practice is based largely on Hutterite interpretation of passages in chapters 2, 4, and 5 of Acts, which speak of the believers "having all things in common". Thus the colony owns and operates its buildings and equipment like a corporation. Housing units are built and assigned to individual families but belong to the colony and there is very little personal property. Meals are taken by the entire colony in a common long room.

Hutterites say that in their entire five-century history there have been two murders and one suicide. Young Hutterite men often leave their colony upon reaching adulthood to try life in the outside world. The vast majority (according to one Minister, 80 percent) return disillusioned by the harsh, cold speed of the modern world and are welcomed back to the colony.

Daughter coloniesEdit

Each colony consists of about 10 to 20 families, with a population of around 60 to 150. When the colony's population grows near the upper figure and its leadership determines that branching off is economically and spiritually necessary, they locate, purchase land for, and build a "daughter" colony. When the new colony is complete and ready for habitation, half of the old colony's members are chosen (usually by lot) to depart for the new colony, which they often do the very next day. When an intercolony marriage occurs, the bride goes to live in the groom's colony, where they may be treated to a "shivaree" , though it's good-natured and not intended as a note of disapproval.

Agriculture and manufacturingEdit

Often, colonies own large tracts of land and, since they function as a collective unit, can afford top-of-the-line farm implements. Some also run state-of-the-art hog, chicken or turkey barns. An increasing number of Hutterite colonies are again venturing into the manufacturing sector. Before the Hutterites emigrated to North America, they relied on manufacturing to sustain their communities. It was only in Russia that the Hutterites learned to farm from the Mennonites. Largely due to the increasing automation of farming (GPS controlled seeding, spraying, etc), Hutterites are again looking to manufacturing to provide work for their people. Many of the colonies, who have gone into manufacturing, have realized that they need to provide their members with a higher level of education.

Use of technologyEdit

Although Hutterites attempt to remove themselves from the outside world (televisions are forbidden, though tapes, CDs and radios are not), and many of the Lehrerleut and Dariusleut (Alberta) colonies still only have one central phone, the majority of the Schmiedeleut already have phones in each household and place of business. Phones are used for both business and for social purposes. Cell phones are also very common among the Schmied groups. Text messaging has made cell phones particularly useful for Hutterian young people wishing to keep in touch with their peers. Some Hutterite homes have computers and radios; a minority of communities (mostly, liberal Schmiedleut colonies) have some sort of filtered Internet access.


Rather than send their children to an outside school, Hutterites build a schoolhouse onsite at the colony to fulfill a minimum educational agreement with the State, which is typically run by an outside hired educator who teaches the basics including English (this person is called the "English Teacher", not because English is used in the classroom but because the teacher is an outsider (English speaker)). Traditionally, Hutterite children have left school at 15 years of age to fulfill their adult roles in the colony. This practice is still strictly maintained by the Lehrerleut and most of the Dariusleut colonies. However, an increasing number of Hutterites, especially among the Schmiedeleut in Manitoba, have graduated from high school. In addition, some of these young people have then gone on to attend university; many become teachers for their colonies. Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba, offers a Hutterite Education Program (BUHEP) to Hutterites that are willing to teach on Hutterite colonies. This program is only available to the Hutterite colonies on the liberal side of the Schmiedleut split.


Music is officially permitted only in vocal form, however, some colonies allow instruments. Even where instruments are banned, they are sometimes brought out behind the back of the Minister (with a wink and a nod), to the enjoyment of all.


Alberta Hutterites won the right to avoid having their photograph taken for their drivers' licenses. In May 2007, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the photograph requirement violates their religious rights and that driving was essential to their way of life. The Wilson Springs colony based their belief on the second commandment ("Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"). About 80 of the photo-less licenses were in use at the time of the decision.


In contrast to the plain look of the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, Hutterite clothing can be vividly coloured, especially on children.


Just as the Amish and Old Order Mennonites often use Pennsylvania German, the Hutterites have preserved and use among themselves a distinct dialect of German known as Hutterite German or Hutterisch. Originally based on a Tyrolean dialect from the south-central German-speaking Europe from which they sprang in the 16th century, Hutterisch has taken on a Carinthian base due to their migratory history. In the years 1760 -1763, the Hutterites were joined by a large group of Lutherans who spoke a Carinthian dialect. Eventually, this lead to the replacement of the Hutterite's Tyrolean dialect with the Carinthian dialect. Partly as a result of this, the Amish and Hutterite German dialects are not generally mutually intelligible. In their religious exercises Hutterites use a classic Lutheran German.


The mid-2004 location and number of the world's 472 Hutterite colonies:[4]

  • Canada (347)

o Dariusleut (142): Alberta (109); Saskatchewan (31); British Columbia (2) o Schmiedeleut (106): Manitoba (105); Alberta (1) o Lehrerleut (99): Alberta (69); Saskatchewan (30)

  • United States (124)

o Schmiedeleut (69): South Dakota (53); Minnesota (9); North Dakota (7) o Lehrerleut (34): Montana (34) o Dariusleut (21): Montana (15); Washington (5); Oregon (1)

  • Japan (1)

o Dariusleut (1)

  • Nigeria (1)

o Schmiedeleut (1)

The Japanese Hutterite community does not consist of Hutterites of European descent, but ethnic Japanese who have adopted the same way of life and are recognized as an official colony. The inhabitants of this colony speak neither English nor German.

In similar fashion, a "neo-" Hutterite group was founded in Germany in 1920, called the Bruderhof, by Eberhard Arnold. Arnold had forged links with the North American Hutterites in the 1930s, continuing until 1990 when the Bruderhof were excommunicated due to a number of religious and social differences.

Current challengesEdit

Lately, the Hutterites have been faced with some daunting challenges. Prices for many of the farm commodities that had sustained them for many years are near or below the cost of production. The advantage they once held over other farms of economies of scale due to their large size, is no longer true in many cases. Many private farms are now as large or larger than Hutterite farms. Some colonies are suffering near mass-desertions of the younger people, who have been lured away by high-paying jobs, particularly in the oilfields