A young girl, her hair tightly rolled and covered with a scarf, gazes out a screened door. Her dreamy look is typical of millions of American children. Her clothes mark her as different. She is a Hutterite.
To be a Hutterite is first of all to be a member of a community, a tiny part of an integrated whole. In small colonies these Christians live in shared buildings, eat in common dining rooms, labor and worship together. They hold no personal property, and have little contact with those outside their community. This, they believe, is God's plan.
Like the Amish and Mennonites, the Hutterites are descended from the 16th-century Anabaptists, whose condemnation of infant baptism made them heretics. These pacifists take their name from an early leader, Jacob Hutter. After moving around eastern Europe for three centuries to avoid persecution, they immigrated to the United States in the 1870s.
They have thrived here. More than 35,000 Hutterites now live in roughly 400 colonies in Montana, Washington, the Dakotas, Minnesota and western Canada. Most Hutterite colonies support themselves through agriculture, some through the manufacture of such salable items as hog feeders and coal boilers. No one draws a salary for this work; each person's needs are provided for by the colony.