Hutterites: Sage Creek lunch

“Sage Creek Lunch” is part of Jill Brody’s photo exhibit on Montana’s Hutterites, “Hidden in Plain Sight.” She will speak Saturday at 10 a.m., at MSU in Leon Johnson Hall, room 346.

Montana’s 50 Hutterite colonies have a big impact on agriculture and Hutterites often sell their products at farmers markets, yet the people remain a mystery to many outsiders.

German teachers at Montana State University hope to increase awareness and understanding of Hutterites with free public workshops on Saturday, said Kate Kithil, an MSU German instructor.

At 10 a.m., in Leon Johnson Hall photographer Jill Brody will talk about her four-year project photographing Hutterite colonies, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” and how she sought to set aside her cultural biases.

“Her photos are amazing,” Kithil said.

At 1 p.m., in Herrick Hall, MSU history professor Mary Murphy will talk about Hutterite contributions and the culinary history of Montana. Micah Chang, a doctoral student, will talk about Hutterite colonies on Montana’s Hi Line and the issues they face today.

“There are actually native German speakers in our own state,” Kithil said. “It’s kind of neat.

“We see them at farmers markets, but they are a closed group.”

Originally from Germany and Austria, the Hutterites are a branch of Anabaptists, founded in the 1500s like the Amish and Mennonites, according to the Hutterites.org website.

As a nonviolent Christian group that believes in pacifism, adult baptism and communal sharing, they faced persecution as heretics. Over the centuries they fled east to Moravia, Hungary, Romania and Russian Ukraine. In the 1870s, to avoid military service in Russia, they immigrated to North America.

Today there are 50 colonies in Montana, second only to South Dakota with 54, and many more colonies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

An estimated 45,000 Hutterites live in North America in about 460 colonies. In Montana, Hutterites produce about 90% of the state’s hogs and 98% of its eggs, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

During World War I, Hutterites were arrested for refusing military service. Four were sent to Alcatraz prison and two died from brutal treatment. Canada offered to exempt them from military service, and today about 75% of Hutterites live in Canada.

They speak a dialect of German, mixed with Russian, “with a Bavarian twist,” Kithil said.

She said she invited Tom Wipf, head of the Springdale Colony near White Sulpher Springs to speak on Saturday, but this is the colony’s busy harvest time. So instead the German teachers have purchased farm produce from the colony and will cook a meal in communal Hutterite fashion.

MSU’s German teachers last year hosted an exhibit about German inventors.

Kithil said anyone who would like to practice speaking in German is welcome to the free monthly German Conversation Night, held at 7 p.m., the third Wednesday of every month at Townshend’s Tea House in downtown Bozeman.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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