Ex-Hutterites share journey with UND

“The Nine” find redeeming lives outside communal restrictions.

“The Nine,” a group of former Hutterites, sign books at Furgeson Books and Media in Grand Forks on Saturday. Photo submitted.

After separating themselves from their Hutterite family and upbringing, nine people are spending time this week at UND in hopes of helping students understand that there are opportunities out there for everyone.

Titus Waldner, part of “The Nine,” said their motivation to come to UND was to share the idea of spreading religious freedoms by promoting a book they had written.

“I am hoping students will realize the blessing people have in this country, the freedoms they have in this country and even here on campus,” he said. “I just want to send that message across, not to take it for granted, but to grab ahold of it because not everyone has it even in this country.”


All but one of the group left their colonies in 2006 because of their new views on religion and hope of living freely; the other followed suit shortly after in 2007.

Speaking of why she left, Karen Waldner said she came to realize she wanted to know God in her own way.

“I felt in the colonies they wanted us to just go along with what they said to do, the time schedule, the work,” she said. “I did not want to follow along the rules, traditions and what people said to do, because it did not make me happy. I knew I needed to do more.”

After coming back together and coming to learn some of the basics of communication outside of Hutterite society, the group decided it was time to put together, “Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom,” which contains a chapter about each person’s life as he or she comes to grow in the Lord.

Rodney Waldner, one of the group members, said they hope it will give others find their own way.

“This book is a message of hope. For us, we found purpose in our lives through Jesus Christ, and that’s what we want to share with others,” he said. “Now that we found that purpose, we want to share it with people, we do not want to hold it back.

Since putting out the book, the group has traveled to different places speaking to people at book signs in addition to speaking openly at places such as churches.

Book signing

Most recently, the group spent Saturday at two book signings in Grand Forks, where its members spoke one-on-one with many people of the community about their adventure and change.

After discussing the path taken by members, one local retired educator said she was most excited to see spirits running high.

In addition to members of the community coming to the events, two of the mentors of the group were also in attendance at the book signing this past weekend. One of them talked of the transitions the group has been through since leaving the colonies with nothing.

Following the book signing over the weekend, the group had its first open discussion at UND Monday night in room seven of the Education Building. During the event, the group spoke of issues dealing with the women’s rights, genocide and overall human rights were brought up.

The group looks forward to speaking to multiple classes today and tomorrow in addition to holding a book signing 3 to 5 p.m. at the UND Bookstore  on Tuesday afternoon.

They will wrap up their time at UND with a presentation at Christus Rex on Wednesday night from 6:45  to 8:15 p.m.

Mathew McKay is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].