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Village Among Nations

Village Among Nations: "Canadian" Mennonites in a Transnational World, 1916-2006

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    Village Among Nations
    Book Description:

    Village among Nationsrecuperates a missing chapter of Canadian history: the story of traditionalist Mennonites who emigrated from Canada for cultural reasons, but then in later generations "returned" in large numbers for economic and social security.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6672-6
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    This book relates a distinctive transnational experience linked to the history of Canada, but also to half a dozen other countries across the Americas. It focuses on specific aspects in the making of an imagined village, a loosely linked pan-American community of some 250,000 Low German-speaking Mennonites. Its inhabitants, many still possessing Canadian citizenship, are the descendants mostly of traditionalist Old Colony Mennonites (but also of four other smaller groups) who emigrated from western Canada in the 1920s and sett led in isolated, rural places in Latin America: 6000 chose mountainous northern Mexico; 1700, the Paraguayan Chaco. There they struggled...

  6. 1 Leaving the “British Empire” in Canada: Promises in the South, 1916–1921
    (pp. 14-39)

    In his memoir recounting the emigration of Old Colony Mennonites from Canada to Mexico in the 1920s, Isaak M. Dyck emphasized the effect of the 1916 school legislation in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.¹ These laws, a product of the heady and patriotic days of the First World War, gave the government the power to determine what Mennonite children would learn in school. The Canadian federal government had exempted the pacifist Low German Mennonites from military service, but the two provincial governments pressured them in new, systemic ways.² The school legislation, wrote Dyck, entailed more than a simple curriculum change: it grew...

  7. 2 Drawing Lines on God’s Earth: Settlers in Mexico and Paraguay, 1922–1929
    (pp. 40-65)

    Having chosen their land, two streams of Mennonite emigrants began making their way southward. In March 1922, the first of several chartered trains of migrants from Manitoba and Saskatchewan left for Mexico. On board, about 6000 Old Colony and Sommerfelder Mennonites travelled across the American Midwest to El Paso and then into “old” Mexico, entering the broad mountain valleys of the eastern Sierra Madre, specifically Bustillos Valley in Chihuahua state and Guatimapé Valley in Durango state. At railroad sidings beyond the capital cities bearing the names of their respective states, they transferred their supplies onto horse-drawn wagons they had brought...

  8. 3 Dreaming of “Old” Canada: Nostalgia in the Diaspora, 1930–1945
    (pp. 66-95)

    By 1930, the majority of the almost 8000 western Canadian Mennonite emigrants had stayed true to their original decision and re-established themselves in the South.¹ The Mennonite communities of Manitoba, Swift Current, Santa Rita, and Santa Clara Colony in the Bustillos Valley in Chihuahua state, and of Hague Colony, near Patos, in Guatimapé Valley in Durango state, were clearly etched in northern Mexico’s cultural landscape.² And, in Paraguay, Menno Colony had made its mark in the central Gran Chaco savannah. Over time, scholars have focused on the remarkable ability of these settlers to replicate old ways in new lands. H....

  9. 4 Rethinking Time and Space: East Paraguay and Beyond, 1945–1954
    (pp. 96-118)

    In 1948, some 2500 conservative Mennonites from western Canada joined their kith and kin in Paraguay and northern Mexico.¹ About 1700 of these new settlers, mostly members of the smaller Chortitzer and Sommerfelder congregations from Manitoba, moved to tropical East Paraguay, a region previously unsettled by Canadian Mennonites.² The remaining 800, mostly of the small, similarly conservative Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites, settled about one hundred kilometres north of existing Mennonite colonies in Chihuahua, Mexico.³ The most-often-cited reason for these post-Second World War migrations was straightforward enough. Participants spoke of stemming assimilation into Canadian society, encouraged by urbanization and the patriotism of...

  10. 5 Meeting the Outside Gaze: New Life in British Honduras and Bolivia, 1954–1972
    (pp. 119-150)

    In the 1950s and 1960s, after a long generation in Mexico and Paraguay, a large number of Mennonites from both countries were on the move again. Many of these migrants seemed ever prepared to make secondary and even tertiary migrations, reflecting the long-held idea that all settlement was ultimately impermanent. Unlike other Mennonite migrations at this time, this mid-century move was not a “return” northward to Canada, but a migration mostly southward, across the boundaries of Central or South American countries. And, significantly, the majority of these migrants were ultra-traditionalists, so-called “horse and buggy” Mennonites, who sought in these southern...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 6 Crystallizing Memory: The “Return” of the Kanadier, 1951–1979
    (pp. 151-174)

    During the very time that many Mennonites within Latin America were moving ever farther southward, pursuing old ways in British Honduras and Bolivia, thousands of others headed in the opposite direction, back to the old homeland of Canada. The vast majority of these migrants northward were from Mexico, given its proximity to Canada, although hundreds also came from Paraguay’s Menno, Bergthal, and Sommerfeld colonies.

    No matter their origin, these migrations to Canada differed from the church-ordered group migration southward and within the South. The move northward was a haphazard, economically driven and individually ordered, chain migration. Especially for the Mexico...

  13. 7 Imagining a Pan-American Village: Reading Die Mennonitische Post, 1977–1996
    (pp. 175-204)

    The grandchildren of the migrants who left Canada in the 1920s, the so-called “third generation,” established their lives as adults in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Like their parents, they did so as transnational subjects, albeit in quite a different world; they seemed to move more often, stayed in closer contact with dispersed kin, and migrated into ever-new regions. During these years, for example, Low German-speaking Mennonites from the South claimed Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas as their homes, as well as Nova Scotia in Canada, La Pampa in Argentina, Tarija in far southern Bolivia, and Campeche in far...

  14. 8 Homing in on the Transnational World: Women Migrants in Ontario, 1985–2006
    (pp. 205-226)

    In a sense, nothing orderly or certain characterized the turn of the twenty-first-century, Canadian-descendant, Mennonite diaspora in the Americas. The vast network of communities stretching from Canada to Argentina was dynamic, even messy. Most children were taught traditional ways incongruent with modernity, couples struggled with large families, householders jostled for space to thrive, and the elderly pondered yesteryear’s sacrifices. People continued to move; enabled by inexpensive air travel and modern highway systems, many moved several times, and some seemed in perpetual movement, always searching for better livelihoods and reconnections with loved ones. Church life diverged on either the communitarian or...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-234)

    The transnational story of the Low German Mennonites did not end at the turn of the twentieth century. The three people who were introduced at the beginning of this book – Jakob Wall of Ontario, Maria Penner of Nova Scotia, and Isaak Goertzen of Alberta – represent but a few variations of the diasporic story of these Canadian-descendant Mennonites in the Americas. However dissimilar their stories, the term “transnational” for these Mennonites is much more than an abstraction, more than a vague restructuring of the world, a vast global economy, a revolution in communication, an enhanced program of multiculturalism. For them, a...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 235-270)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 271-272)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-290)
  19. Index
    (pp. 291-301)