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Tupaia, the Peacemaker


Gerard Hindmarsh traveled from New Zealand to the Society Islands last week to pursue his obsessive investigation of the sea-faring traditions of the Tahitian people. The author of an article early last year about Polynesian oceanic travel 800 years ago updated his findings with another report on May 5.

A twin-hulled Polynesian canoe replica (Photo by Michael R. Perry in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

A twin-hulled Polynesian canoe replica (Photo by Michael R. Perry in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

A highlight of his recent trip was the opportunity to meet with the crew of the Fa’afaite, a modern replica of a traditional sea-going canoe. The 22-meter, double-hulled vessel will participate in the commemoration next year of the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first exploring voyage into the Pacific. However, the Tahitians told Hindmarsh that they were really more interested in celebrating the achievements of Tupaia, a great Tahitian priest and navigator who sailed with Cook.

While much of the piece last week provided additional details Hindmarsh has uncovered relating to the history of the large sailing canoes, one story he related provides insight into the character of Tupaia. Captain Cook took him aboard in Ra’iatea to help with navigation through the Society Islands and elsewhere in the Pacific. But more than just a pilot, Tupaia helped the British diplomatically when they got into encounters with the Polynesians that could have been serious. Before they left Ra’iatea, the Tahitian navigator showed the British explorers the enormous field of stone works, their sacred marae known as Taputapuatea.

A drawing by Tupaia of a Maori man and Joseph Banks trading a piece of cloth for a crayfish

A drawing by Tupaia of a Maori man and Joseph Banks trading a piece of cloth for a crayfish (Original at the British Library, in the public domain)

While they were visiting the site, Sir Joseph Banks, the prominent British naturalist who accompanied Cook on the voyage, ignorantly thrust his hand into a “god-house” and groped the tapa-wrapped god inside. Tupaia probably saved the lives of the British, according to Hindmarsh, with fast talking diplomacy that successfully smoothed over the potentially nasty incident. The writer said he felt “spooked” there, as the guide had warned the visitors when they arrived at the site, “Don’t be surprised if you don’t feel ‘heavier’ tonight, so much has gone on here.” Tupaia sailed with the Cook expedition throughout the Pacific but he died of a disease before the ship reached England.


Will Success Disrupt Peacefulness?


A number of Hutterite colonies in Manitoba are hiring non-Hutterites as employees in their manufacturing businesses, which is beginning to change their economic and social relationships. The Winnipeg Free Press explained the development in a news story on May 5.

According to the Wikipedia, the motto of Anola, Manitoba, is “Share in our future … Invest in your Community,” an appropriate saying for the Springfield Hutterite Colony as well

According to the Wikipedia, the motto of Anola, Manitoba, is “Share in our future … Invest in your Community,” an appropriate saying for the Springfield Hutterite Colony as well (Photo by Mark McKean in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

The largest enterprise cited by the news service is a company called Springfield Woodworking, owned by the Springfield Hutterite Colony, which is located a short distance east of Winnipeg near the town of Anola. The workforce of the company includes 60 people, three-quarters of whom, 45, are non-Hutterites. Springfield Woodworking is a kitchen and bathroom cabinet manufacturing firm, the third largest in the province.

When Pauly Kleinsasser, the general manager of the firm, hired his first employee from outside the colony 15 years ago, he wasn’t even sure how to prepare his paycheck. Members of the Hutterite colony are not paid for their labor and do not have personal bank accounts—everything they need is provided by the group. Since then, Kleinsasser has mastered the techniques for handling the payrolls as well as the benefits packages for the non-Hutterite employees.

Kleinsasser told the reporter from the Free Press, Ruth Bonneville, that the colony could not handle such a large operation with its own people. They have 100 members, farm 7,500 acres of land, and maintain a hog finishing operation. “We’re short-handed on the farm side as it is,” he told her. He said that the manufacturing company is growing rapidly; it may expand its operations again next year. It now makes 13 kitchens per day, roughly 3,500 per year.

He was proud to show the reporter a jersey from the Winnipeg Jets, a professional hockey team from the city. His company installed a kitchen in the home of one Kevin Ceveldayoff, the general manager of the team, a couple months ago. Kleinsasser told Ms. Bonneville, “We’re doing kitchens for a lot of high-profile people.”

The shop at the Pincher Creek Hutterite Colony, Pincher Creek, Alberta

The shop at the Pincher Creek Hutterite Colony, Pincher Creek, Alberta (Photo by Bruce Bonta)

It is clear from the article that the success of the enterprise is due in part to the business acumen of Kleinsasser. He and an uncle, the Hutterite minister Ruben Kleinsasser, started the business by making bedroom furniture in the colony shop for outside neighbors. They branched out into making kitchens when a neighbor pressured them into making one for him. Ruben has subsequently left the company but Pauly continues to manage it.

It doubled in size seven years ago when Pauly decided to move the company showroom to an industrial area of Winnipeg. The cabinets are quality products, apparently, with thicker wood for the bottoms of their drawers than the ones made by their competitors, and they have a special, hardened, coated finish on the outsides of the cabinets. An expert in the business credits the success of the company to the workmanship and quality of their products.

Several other colonies in Manitoba are hiring outsiders in addition to Springfield, including the Crystal Spring Colony near Ste. Agathe—it employs up to 10 people to work in Allsons, a welding firm that serves the Crystal Spring Hog Equipment Company on colony grounds. On the Oak Bluff Colony, a company called EcoPoxy has five employees who are not Hutterites. The Acadia Colony near Carberry has five staff member who are not part of that colony working at its Community Truss business, a firm the makes trusses for roofs and floors. Non-Hutterites work in a manufacturing operation at the Heartland Colony near Hazelridge, not far from Springfield.

The reporter mentioned that a common complaint in Manitoba against the Hutterites has been that they do not provide many economic benefits to their rural neighbors. They tend to be self-sufficient, buying what they need in bulk from major jobbers in urban centers. But as the colonies are expanding their manufacturing enterprises beyond the capacities of their own members, they are changing the dynamics by hiring outsiders.

A new Hutterite colony

A new Hutterite colony (Photo by Stefan Kuhn in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

The expanding business enterprises are also changing the population dynamics within the colonies. While they have traditionally tended to form new colonies when they reach a population of 120 to 150, that may be starting to change. Due to economic forces beyond their control, such as the prices of farmland, they have turned to manufacturing, which is allowing them to grow somewhat larger and not subdivide quite so often.

Mr. Kleinsasser made a comment to Ms. Bonneville about the relationship of colony size to keeping the internal peace. “With manufacturing, now colonies can get up to 200 people, if peace can be kept,” he said to the reporter.

Many books about the Hutterites discuss the issues involved with the expansion of the colonies and the formation of daughter colonies, a good example being Hostetler and Huntington’s classic overview (1996). That work describes how colonies tend to divide about every 14 years: land is purchased, buildings are erected, and a daughter colony is formed. In order for the new colony to begin functioning it should have a minimum of 60 people, half of whom are children under 15. About 15 people selected for the new colony should be working males; of them, 5 may be over 25 years old and able to handle leadership positions. The remaining 10 would be younger, unmarried, and unbaptized.

The new colony has a lot of work and little competition for major positions.  As it matures, however, the colony may have 120 to 130 people, of whom 35 are males over 15; 16 men may be over 30 and have lifetime appointments to all the major positions. But here is where Mr. Kleinsasser’s worries come into play. The five men between 25 and 30 would have no chance for upward mobility. Competitive feelings can and do develop in these larger colonies, especially between families, and fathers will try to get favorable positions for their sons. Competition begins to breed social problems. Factions and cliques tend to form.

The Chicken Manager sorting eggs at the Pincher Creek Hutterite Colony, 70 miles south of Brant, Alberta

The Chicken Manager sorting eggs at the Pincher Creek Hutterite Colony, Alberta (Photo by Bruce Bonta, July 5, 2006)

The branching process disrupts this competition and channels it into the expansion of the old colony into two new ones, one of which will stay on the old property. When everything is working according to tradition, the entire colony works for several years to find an appropriate site for the new colony and to develop the infrastructure. When it is time to branch, the men divide the families into two groups, balancing all known preferences and abilities, with the two groups headed by the preacher and the assistant preacher. Everyone packs and the choice is made by lot as to which group will stay and which will move. Thus the peacefulness will be maintained. Mr. Kleinsasser is wise to be concerned about the future.



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