Hutterites topic of Union Co. Historical program

The Union County Historical Society will host its annual gala on Saturday, April 21 at 6 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the Elk Point United Parish Church located at 601 South Pearl Street in Elk Point.. A social hour will begin the evening at 5:30 p.m. with appetizers. A typical Hutterite meal will be served family-style at 6 p.m. Tickets ($15 per person) for the dinner may be purchased from Kathy Noll (605.565.3001) or Sherri McKee (712.551.6200). The program, funded in part by the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will begin at 7 p.m. There is no charge to attend the program which is open to the public.

Joanita Kant

Joanita Kant will present "Hutterites of South Dakota." The 40-minute photo and lecture program is based on her contacts and friendships with Hutterites since 1976 in eastern South Dakota.  From colony clothing patterns, to children rearing practices, to food customs, to their history since their founding in 1528 in Europe, she examines their worldview. She has been a scholar for their Speaker's Bureau since the early 1990s.

Kant first worked with Sunset Colony near Britton, during the production of a book, The Hutterite Community Cookbook, published by Good Books in 1990.  In 2004, she conducted research at over 40 colonies in South Dakota, eventually resulting in the book, Hutterites of South Dakota: The Schmiedeleut with over 525 colored photos published in 2006 by Llumina Press. An honors graduate of The University of South Dakota with a B. S. degree, Kant earned an M. S. in geography from South Dakota State University in 2008 while working as a graduate teaching assistant.  In 2009, the South Dakota Humanities Council awarded a media grant to East Central Literacy Council for the publication of Kant's 2008 master's paper, now available from John Miller's Prairie View Press as the book, Gentle People: A Case Study of Rockport Colony Hutterites. It is currently used as a textbook at the university level.

Rockport Colony near Alexandria is iconic and emblematic among the estimated 45,000 colony Hutterites in North America because of events associating this place with World War I.  Their story is expected to have wide appeal among all denominations of Hutterites, as well as Mennonites, Germans from Russia, university students, and the general public.

Kant currently resides in Brookings where she is a fulltime graduate student and research assistant at SDSU, studying for a Ph. D. in Biological Sciences with emphasis in plant science.  Her current research interests are heavy metals levels in traditionally edible plants on Pine Ridge Reservation and associated ethno-botany. She has been an author since 1975 with books that include Old Style Plains Indian Dolls, Maggie: The Civil War Diary of Margaret Wylie Mellette, Century Farms of South Dakota, Pictorial History of Codington County, South Dakota (with Stanley and Virginia Allen), and History and Art of the Middle Border (with Mike Sougstad), among others.

Her hobbies include serving as a Master Gardener; trap shooting; hunting pheasants, ducks, and geese; fishing; photography; and swimming.

To prepare for the presentation, those who attend may want to read various publications by the world-renowned expert on Hutterite culture, the late John Hostetler.  His best works include Hutterite Society, 1974, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, and Hutterite Life, 1983, Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press.  Another book of interest is Michael Holzach's The Forgotten People, 1993, Freeman, SD: Pine Hill Press. It is an interesting addition to Hutterite literature, since Holzach, a German journalist, lived at a North American colony for a year in order to write the book.  Also, see the continuously updated annotated bibliography with special reference to South Dakota Hutterite colonies at South Dakota State University at the following website: After the program, those attending may want to view the inexpensive film, The Hutterites: To Care or Not to Care, available at several sites on the Internet.

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