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Gentle People: A Case Study of Rockport Colony Hutterites

By Joanita M. Kant 

Prairie View Press, Brookings, South Dakota, 2011, 120 pages, softcover.


Gentle People: A Case Study of Rockport Colonies Hutterites is an astute and first-hand analysis that invites our reassessment and enriches our understanding of the often misunderstood Hutterites at this iconic and emblematic place among them, Rockport Colony, South Dakota.  All Hutterites know the colony’s name and all that it implies, regardless of their location today.  This is the story of Rockport Colony and its pivotal role in why Hutterite colonies and their estimated 45,000 members are located where they are today.  It is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where two Hutterites are buried resulting from persecution for their religious beliefs during World War I, in an era before alternative service was effectively implemented for conscientious objectors.  Moreover, it is the story of their peaceful life today at Rockport Colony, a strikingly beautiful farming settlement on the James River in South Dakota.  Hutterites are kind and gentle people of the land who live on communal farms across the United States and Canada based on centuries old traditions, where they pass their beliefs along to their children.  Pacifistic in the extreme, there has never been a murder among them since their founding in central Europe in 1528.

“This fascinating account of a group of South Dakota Hutterites weaves together their culture, history, economy, and geography into the most comprehensive ethnography on this remarkable population since Hostetler’s classic book, Hutterite Society, written in 1874.  Joanita Kant’s long-term personal relationship with the subjects of her study is evident throughout the book, allowing her to capture the subtleties of Hutterite life and culture without compromising her objectivity about this unique society.  A must read for students interested in any of the social sciences and Anabaptist cultures in the New World.”         

--- Carole Obert, Ph.D., Blum-Riese Professor, Department of Human Genetics, The University of Chicago 

“A splendid book–the most comprehensive work in our generation about Schmiedeleut Hutterite life and their communal living and farming on the Prairie Plains.”

--- Michael McCurry, Ph. D., Extension Sociologist, South Dakota State University

About the Author

An honors graduate of The University of South Dakota, Joanita Kant earned an M.S. in geography from South Dakota State University in 2008.  She has been an author, museum director, historical preservationist, graduate teaching assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Humanities speaker in the state.  Currently, she resides in Brookings where she serves as adjunct faculty and studies for a Ph.D. while serving as a graduate research assistant at SDSU. 

Girls sitting between the two graves of the Hofer brothers, conscientious objectors in World War I, in the Lehreieutsection of the Rockport Colony Cemetery, 2007. The deaths of the brothers were a main catalyst for the mass movement of Hutterites to Canada. The larger of the gravestones in the foreground are Schmiedeliut.
Girls in canning area in the kitchen basement.

Related Articles:

Brothers' Deaths Made Rockport Colony 'Iconic'


Gentle People: A Case Study of Rockport Colony Hutterites

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