The Hutterite School
There are several Hutterite colonies in North Dakota. The Hutterites are named for their founder, Jakob Hutter. The movement originated in the early 1500s. Hutterites were persecuted in Europe, and were forced to relocate several times. They made their way to Russia then migrated to the United States in the 1870s. Most Hutterites today live on the northern Great Plains. They live in colonies. Their dress is modest. They are often mistaken for Mennonites or Amish. But they are not like the Amish. They embrace modern life. They drive, go to college, and have electricity in their homes.
The Hutterites are pacifists. During World War I they were persecuted for their pacifist beliefs. Seventeen of eighteen American colonies moved to Canada. In the 1930s, the United States passed laws protecting conscientious objectors. Some of the Hutterites returned at that time.
A community of Hutterites relocated to the Ellendale area from South Dakota in 1968. One of the issues they faced was setting up a school for their children. Hutterites have always placed a heavy emphasis on education. They asked the Ellendale school district to provide a teacher. The school district said that was not feasible for fewer than eighteen students, and there were only fifteen in the Hutterite colony. The Hutterites then suggested another option. If the school district would open the school, the Hutterites would reimburse the district for any deficit. M. F. Peterson, the State Superintendant of Public Instruction, said that was not permitted. State funds could not go to private schools. It could also result in legal problems.
On this date in 1969, the Hutterites announced they would open their own school. They planned to purchase a two-room schoolhouse that the school district no longer needed. They placed an ad in the Grand Forks Herald for a teacher. They offered a salary of $500 per month.
In the past, few Hutterite colonies offered a high school education. But now, many Hutterite children attend public school. More colonies with their own schools have increased the level of education. They now provide schooling through grade twelve. Many Hutterite children go on to college and trade schools.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Fargo Forum 12 July, 1969
Janzen, Rod and Max Stanton. The Hutterites in North America. The John Hopkins University Pres: Baltimore, 2010.