Friday, 12 December 2008

Southern Alberta culture.

Southern Alberta is not a particularly mixed area in terms of race and ethnicity. Alberta is the wealthiest province in Canada because it has a lot of oil and farmland. I think Calgary and Edmonton are more ethnically-diverse but down here in the south, it's pretty white. But there are two cultural groups that are really prevalent in Southern Alberta; Mormons and Hutterites.

I didn't really know anything about either of these groups until I got here. Mormons follow a type of Christianity, and quite a few work with us (I think the people who own the Kilmorey Lodge are Mormon too). The most obvious Mormon trait is that they don't drink alcohol (or anything addictive, e.g. coca cola or coffee). I think there's also a rule of the Mormon church that they have to give part of their earnings to the church, and they have to pay a kind of church tax on "luxury" items. They also commonly have big families, no sex before marriage etc...they used to have plural marriages, although I think this isn't part of the church anymore (but some Mormons still do it). There are a few towns right by Waterton that are almost exclusively Mormon, and these are dry communities - you can't buy alcohol anywhere in the town.

The other cultural group is Hutterites, which are kind of like Amish people. They're legally exempt from taking part in wars (Seamus wants to become one because of this). Hutterites live in colonies, and their economy is farming. They're anti-technology, but are having to use technology these days to keep with laws on freezing meat for selling. They're self-sufficient and the kids are home-schooled. They dress in a particular style (women have hankerchiefs on their heads, men wear black coats) and men run the colonies, while women are home-makers. Each colony has a Minister, Secretary and Assistant Minister. The communities seem to be really peaceful and democratic, despite the hierarchy. Another weird thing is that Hutterites believe having their photo taken for driving licenses goes against their religious beliefs (I'm not exactly sure how), and thus have special permission to have licenses without photographs on. There are some colonies near to Waterton, and one does a lot of business with us by selling us berries for our jam and desserts. Apparently we're having a staff trip to a Hutterite colony, which seems a little weird to me.

So, although the majority of people in Waterton are as lapsed in religion as the average British person, there are these groups around too. I think Hutterites are really interesting; my boss is lending me a book about a woman who broke away from her colony. I get the impression the colonies are really happy and almost utopian, but to my British mind, I have to admit the lifestyle seems restrictive, particularly for women. I'll read this book and try and find out some more.


Anonymous said...

Interesting blog entry. Found this via google alerts. Seems you have painted an "interesting" picture of Hutterites. (Smile) I'm not sure about some of the points you have about Hutterites. I'm not sure I agree with everything though. Not to complain about anything you have written, but here are some minor details I thought I would correct for you.
1. Hutterites being similar to Amish. We're really not. We don't shun technology but rather embrace it. Note: Amish still farm with horses, we use tractors. Amish live without electricity. Honestly, I don't think I could live without electricity. We do everything we can in an efficient way. Lol I find it funny when people think we are anti-technology. We're anything but.
As for the pictures on licenses. Personally I think this is an irrelevant argument but hey, who am I to argue against those who have more authority than me. I have lots of pictures of my family, friends, etc, but the believe behind that one is going against the commandments, because photos are a graven image.
Oh and the main clothing difference between men and women on the colony is the fact that women wear dresses (we all have the same pattern n all) and the shawls, and men wear pants and suspenders and a home made shirt. Black coat...well that one is a used to be. At least from where I'm from it is!! Hope this cleared things up a little! Enjoy your visit to the Hutterites. We're friendly and fun. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Oh and umm...remember that English is our second or third language for most of us. So if our English aint too hot, that's why. Great blogging its interesting reading about us.

Katy said...

Thanks for your comments. The information I have is what I've learnt since being here, from my colleagues. I wasn't making an "argument" about the photos on driving licenses, just stating it as fact. And the men on the colony near me definitely still wear the black coats! But sorry if I am wrong about the technology/Amish link; this is just what I've understood from speaking to people.