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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Government of Alberta

Government of Canada


Ethnic Settlement: Hutterites, Part Three

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In 1917, the American government adopted a policy that would force Hutterites to fight in World War I.

Since they were pacifists, they decided to move, rather than bend to the government's rule.

As historian David Leonard explains, the Hutterites emigrated north into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This was based on promises made to them by the Canadian government almost two decades before.

They were welcomed, if not with open arms. They were welcomed by the government, anxious to settle the West.

And they established colonies of approximately 100 to 130 people each, until such time as it was felt that the colonies would be so big that the onus of governing them was going to be too great, even for the male elders.

And so they spread about to other colonies in Alberta. In the late 20s, with the increased activity of the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist groups, their spread began to be questioned by others who were settling in the area who did not share their faith.

Those critical of the Hutterites felt they should send their children to public schools like everyone else. And they were very concerned [that] Hutterites were exempt from military service.

They were particularly contentious of the Hutterite claim that, since their communes were their churches, all of their land was therefore church property, and therefore exempt from taxation.

Well, the other settlers won that point when it was decided by law that the Hutterite communes were, in fact, farm lands, and subject to the taxation, just like any other land.

During World War Two, when the Hutterites, like the Mennonites and Doukhobors, and other German ethnic religious groups were refusing service in World War Two, their spread was questioned, this time by the government of Alberta. And there was passed, in 1942, a Land Sales Prohibition Act, which limited to 6400 acres the size of any one colony, Hutterite or otherwise; that a Hutterite colony could not be established within 40 miles of other Hutterite colonies; and that the lands that would be opened to sale to the Hutterites for colonization purposes must first of all be put on the block for sale to anybody else who might want to buy them, as well as the Hutterites.

After World War II, Hutterite colonies spread throughout Alberta until they reached a total of 116 colonies. About 25,000 Hutterites live in Alberta.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.