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Le Heritage Trails sont présentés de courtoisie CKUA Radio Network et Cheryl Croucher

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Mennonites, Part Three

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In the face of increasing liberalism among those of the Mennonite faith, the 1920s gave birth to a movement to rediscover the rigid fundamentals of the Old Mennonite doctrine.

As historian David Leonard explains, the fundamentalists called themselves the Church of God in Christ.

Very rigid. They wore beards, and established themselves around Lincoln and Rosedale, Alberta. And one thing that seemed very peculiar to the rest of the community was their insistence in not to take any interest on any loan they might make to people, because they felt that usury was one of the more notorious of the seven deadly sins.

Over time, Mennonites of various degrees of orthodoxy spread throughout Alberta.

A new wave of Mennonite immigrants came from the Soviet Union in the 1920s. They were escaping persecution by the new Communist regime that stressed atheism. They settled in the more remote areas of Alberta, around Nampa and La Glace.

But it is in the mid-1930s that perhaps the most unique Mennonite colony of all was established in province - way up at Fort Vermilion and La Crete where, led by Mr. Frank Hildebrandt, a number of Mennonites from Manitoba (who had earlier settled in the area, but were finding things hard and the going rough at that time) decided to make their way to the wild regions in the north part of the province, where there was no rail line and really no open road at all, just the Peace River for communications. And they established a very successful farming community on the flat prairies south of Fort Vermilion.

And [they] were regarded by the native populations as very unique, because so many of them had yellow hair, and they contrasted so much with the rest of the population of the region, which was primarily Beaver Indian, or Slavey Indian, or Métis.

The Mennonites shared some similarities with another set of immigrants of German descent, the Hutterites. They were Anabaptist, pacifist, and often archaic in dress and language.

Where they differed, primarily, was that they did not live communally.

In other words, they did not share all their wealth, and live in a very rigid colony. But did integrate enough and were allowed to make wealth individually, even though usury, interest of money, was very much discouraged by them.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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