"Graven Images of a Closed Society:" the Huron Hutterite Colony, 1920s
Ward, Roy, Lehr, John C., McGregor, Brian, Manitoba History
Hutterites first settled in Manitoba in 1919 when they abandoned their settlements in South Dakota and moved north to secure land in southern Alberta and in Manitoba close to Winnipeg. As German-speaking Anabaptists and pacifists who practised communal living they had been subjected to persecution after the United States entered the war against Germany in 1917. For their refusal to serve in the United States Army and their reluctance to contribute directly to the prosecution of the war they had their possessions seized and some of their youth imprisoned and killed.
In 1918 members of the Schmiedeleut colonies in South Dakota purchased land in Cartier Municipality, Manitoba, where they established six colonies (James Valley, Huron, Milltown, Bonne Homme, Maxwell and Rosedale) and resumed their former way of life. There are now 106 colonies in Manitoba.
The photographs in this collection, taken by Charles E. M. Ward soon after the Huron colony was established and published here for the first time, are remarkable indeed. Even today many Hutterites refuse to be photographed and cameras are not commonly found on most colonies. Until recently many Hutterites requested that their Manitoba driver's licences not carry their photograph as they felt it contravened the Biblical injunction not to make graven images. Thus, in the 1920s the only cameras likely to be found on a Hutterite colony were those owned by outsiders, most likely to be the "English" teacher, the one outsider who had the opportunity to know the community and who was present on a daily basis. Charles Ward was one such teacher.
To the Hutterites the colony is an arc: a refuge from the pressures of a secular and godless world. Their leaders faced, and still face, a daunting task. They need to embrace the most modern technologies in order to remain competitive in agricultural markets that are increasingly sophisticated and global, while at the same time controlling exposure to popular culture that threatens to erode Hutterite traditional values. That Huron colony had an impressive tractor even in 1924 is not surprising; Hutterites have always eagerly adopted agricultural technology if it does not threaten their beliefs or way of life. Today on most colonies computers are found, they stand alone and Internet access is rare. Similarly, radios and televisions are frowned upon because they are conduits for outside values, but GPS technology, two-way radios, and other gadgets that enhance agricultural productivity have been embraced. …