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Ex-Forest River Hutterites write new book

Jason and Karen Waldner of Rolla, ND left the rigid structure of their Hutterite community almost seven years ago. Despite almost complete rejection from their Hutterite families and friends the since married couple believe that they made the only decision possible. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
Jason and Karen Waldner of Rolla, ND left the rigid structure of their Hutterite community almost seven years ago. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

The nine former members of Hutterite colonies in North Dakota and Manitoba who criticized colony leaders in a book last year have written a new book.

“Since We Told the Truth,” released Friday, is the sequel to “Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom.”

“After ‘Hutterites’ was released, the readers emphatically suggested we continue with more in-depth detail,” Titus Waldner, one of authors, said in an email interview.

In that first book, the nine outlined their reasons for separating from their colonies, including the lack of freedom and ability to pursue their dreams. Waldner’s parents and five siblings still at the Forest River Colony near the North Dakota town of the same name have said the book only talks about the negatives of colony life.

Titus Waldner said “Hutterites” was well-received in a promotional tour through the Dakotas, Montana and Canada and “has been very successful.”

The nine plan a similar tour with the new book, which focuses on questions raised by readers and, according to promotional materials, “an accurate solution to those challenges currently shaping our social and political landscape.” One of the stops is a book-signing event at Ferguson Books & More in Grand Forks on Saturday.

Hard road

Three of the authors came from the Forest River Colony and the other six came from the Hillside Colony near Brandon, Man. Each separated from their colonies as young adults and have carved out new lives in and around Rolla, N.D.

Jason Waldner, Titus’ brother, left at age 22 eight years ago and his wife Karen left at 20. They said they had nothing and had to rebuild new lives from scratch.

“It was not easy to leave,” Karen Waldner said. “We were not used to opening up to people. We had no drivers’ licenses.”

“There have been tears of sadness and of joy,” she said.

The nine said in their first book that they disagreed with the way the colonies are run.

Jason Waldner complained that members of his old colony “have strayed from the original teaching of the Anabaptist founders.”

“Everyone sees problems, but they don’t change things,” he said. “They do things the way they were done 400 years ago — they don’t know why — just because it’s always been done that way.”

The nine’s second book attempts to lay out solutions, he said, including a return to “the simple teaching of the Bible.”

They have “a growing ministry” in Liberia, Africa, he said, where they have started a radio ministry. He said they consider themselves Christians not affiliated with any denomination.

“We just want to follow what the Bible teaches,” he said. “It’s not complicated.”

For speaking publicly about their colonies’ problems, Jason Waldner said, the nine have been criticized and shunned by the colonies. He and his wife said they are trying to rebuild connections with his parents, but those relationships “are still strained.”

If you go

What: Book-signing for “Since We Told the Truth” by The Nine, former Hutterites from the Forest River, N.D., area and Brandon, Man., area.

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday.

Where: Ferguson Books & More, 1720 S. Washington St., Grand Forks.

For more info: Call Ferguson Books at (701) 738-8025 or visit