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Exhibit Shows Hutterite Life

June 29, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The unexamined life is now on display.

For more than 125 years, members of the reclusive, Amish-like religious sect known as the Hutterites have kept their families to themselves and maintained a life of hard work on their farms in America’s Northwest. They own their goods in common and live apart from modern society.

Now, a new photography exhibit portrays their isolated life in black and white, images of good cheer against a background of harsh farming life.

Little girls giggle. Boys show off in bright shirts and visored caps that recall the Russia of the 1800s. Young women smile and pose of the camera, amused to perch men’s big black hats atop the polka-dot bandannas they wear around their hair.

``Most of these people have never been photographed before,″ said photographer Mary Koga, whose pictures are on display at the Arts Club of Washington.

Unlike the Amish, Hutterite men wear their beards short and have small mustaches. Both sects are fiercely pacifist.

Another difference from the Amish of the eastern United States, who have similar religious views but more somber clothes, is that some Hutterite women sport flowered blouses and skirts in a style that may have started in Ukraine.

The Hutterites originated in Eastern Europe in 1528 and are named for an early leader, Jacob Hutter, who was burned at the stake in 1536. They began to immigrate to North America in the late 1800s to escape religious persecution.

More than 35,000 Hutterites live in the United States and Canada, mainly in the Northern Plains, including about 5,000 in Montana.

They shun people who leave their communities, are mostly farmers and believe that only adults should be baptized. Hutterite colonies usually have about 100 members, each with its own minister who may also be the manager. The state furnishes a teacher.

Trudy Huntington, who has lived with Hutterites and teaches a course on the Amish at the University of Michigan, said the Hutterites’ lifestyle both rejects and profits from modern American life.

``The Hutterites don’t have cars,″ Ms. Huntington said. ``That’s because the whole community owns everything in common. But you should see their trucks and tractors.″

The Hutterite communities work as a unit and thus tend to have larger farms than their neighbors, Ms. Huntington said.

Hutterite success at farming may have brought them some trouble. Last week 200 people met in Selby, Mont., to denounce fires set at a nearby Hutterite colony during the winter.

Hutterites attended the meeting and clapped politely after each speaker but made no comments. Their friends say Hutterite colonies often want to expand and may pay higher prices for land because they cannot get it otherwise. A lawyer for them was told to explain that they appreciated the community’s support and don’t hold it responsible for the vandalism.


The show will be on view through July 24 at the Arts Club, 2017 I St. N.W., Washington, D.C., once the home of President James Monroe. Admission is free.

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