Meet the Hutterites

As a kid, reading National Geographic Magazine provided a way to explore different cultures around the world without leaving home. The magazine was packed with information and the pictures of  “different” people were fascinating.

As an adult, I still find myself intrigued with other cultures. But instead of reading National Geographic Magazine, I’m now able to watch the National Geographic channel, which takes viewers into the lives of some extraordinary people. From American sub-cultures to those living on the fringes of society, NGC has produced some intriguing shows.

One such show is called, “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites.” The show features a group of people (nearly all related) that live on a farm in Montana. They are self-sustaining and grow their own crops, raise their own cattle, chickens, ducks, etc. They make their own clothes and get money for the colony by selling cattle and occasionally making baked goods and jam, which is sold at the farmers market.

They shy away from technology and don’t educate their children past eighth grade. In fact, once they reach their teen years, they are given a job, which they will do for the rest of their lives. Female Hutterites are expected to do their jobs and live in the colony forever. There’s at least one male Hutterite on the show that has attended college — though he lives on the colony with his parents.

They are often confused with the Amish, but they are not Amish. Though their beliefs stem from decades-old traditions and are steeped in religion, they do not seem to be as strict as Amish. They don’t listen to music and don’t wear colorful clothes, but they do use cell phones and microwaves. Females are expected to wear their hair in a certain style, covered by a “shawl,” or kerchief. They are also not supposed to wear make-up, though a couple sometimes do. The men seem to have more freedom and tend to wear what they want, though they mostly wear clothes that will protect them while working outside.

Despite their strict rules, there’s a rebel in the crowd named Claudia. She doesn’t seem interested in living the Hutterite lifestyle. She wants to wear make-up (and does), as well as “normal” clothes. She wants more out of life than to work in a kitchen for the rest of her life. She wants to experience life off of the colony. She wants to work a regular job, go to college and know what it’s like to be a typical adult in the non-Hutterite world. Despite her longing for a “normal” life, her mother Bertha,  is trying very much to keep her on the colony and steer her away from exploring life outside of Kings Colony. No matter how hard she tries, Claudia always seems to find a way to do what she wants to do. Whether it’s visiting a college campus or going to the city, if she puts her mind to doing something, she does it — regardless of the consequences she will face at home upon her return.

It’s fascinating to know that people in the United States can still live a simple life, free of iPods, computers, typical 9-5 jobs and the rat race that we all seem to get caught up in. They don’t worry about the grocery store being too packed or traffic jams on the way home. The money boss is the only one that has to worry about funds and whether the colony has what it needs.

 They live a communal way of life, sharing everything from meals to vehicles. They all eat together (though the women are forbidden from sitting with the men), they all attend church together and they all visit each other on a regular basis. They work together and spend recreational time together. They are a close-knit community — a group of people living a simple life in what seems to be an increasingly difficult time for the world.