Friday, November 20, 2015


Raise your hand if you are familiar with the Doctrine of Discovery, and add a comment about when you learned about it.  I am almost 70 and am pretty sure that I never learned about this in school.  We all learned the story of Custer's Last Stand, but we certainly did not learn about the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee or Sand Creek.  After over 500 years of this immense injustice, I will join the call to have the Doctrine repudiated.  There is no way to make compensation or to reverse past injustices, but certainly we can acknowledge the travesties that grew out of the doctrine and try to head down a more just path.

The graphics will begin with a bit of commentary and then move on to a few examples of the results of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

MENNONITES LEAVING THE CHACO*kn6gMNtG*gD811Y*hyZvby96TY9r1Dg2YND2Sl-X5ARcTGjRfVgi75EehZ5jnoHsdeVeWoMDNg04eWYnf3blt/grancomunidadmenonitamexicovaloraemigrarLN2ToWs.jpg

For a long time, I have been aware of the Mennonites who migrated to Mexico to live and farm in The Chaco and elsewhere.  A nice summary is here.  Locations shown below.

Mennonite/Anabaptists have a long history of migration, generally to avoid conflict and religious persecution, but also to find new land for farming and family living.  The New York Times recently had a lengthy article about the Mennonites in Mexico, and of the conflicts there, and once again, looking to move on after many decades in Mexico.

Read the article given in the link, most of which is copied below:

 RIVA PALACIO, Mexico — On the edge of a high plain fringed by craggy sandstone hills, Johan Friesen’s small farm is a testament to the rural providence of his Mennonite people.

Neat fields of onion, soybean and yellow corn stretch behind his concrete and adobe house. In the farmyard, a few dozen cows stand in a corral, ready for milking, and a canary-colored reaper awaits repair. But beneath this valley of orderly farms in the center of Chihuahua State, the picture is less than serene, officials and farmers say.

Underground reservoirs have been drained by thirsty crops, like corn, that are the mainstay of the Mennonites’ success, they say. Competition for groundwater — which officials have warned could run out in 20 years — has strained relations between the pacifist, Low German-speaking Mennonites and other farmers and, on occasion, incited violence.

In Chihuahua, nearly a century after the Anabaptist Mennonites migrated from Canada and transformed this valley into a lush carpet of crops, hundreds are trading the land they call home for one where land is cheaper and water is more plentiful.

“People say the water is going to run out,” said Mr. Friesen, 44, who in the spring will join 25 Mennonite families who have begun a new colony in central Argentina. “Without water you can’t grow anything.”

Santa Rita, in Mexico’s Mennonite heartland, is a colony of one-story, pitched-roofed homes, clipped lawns and straight roads — a world away from a typical Mexican village.

On a recent Saturday, perhaps the loudest noise was that of a lawn mower, steered by a young woman wearing a long dress and a straw hat.
For all their good husbandry, though, Mennonite farmers have been prodigal consumers of groundwater, experts said.

“Water has been a source of wealth in Chihuahua, and while that wealth lasts, people are not thinking about how much they are using,” said Arturo Puente González, an agricultural economist.

Still, it was “very unfair” to blame the region’s water problems on the Mennonites, said Kamel Athié Flores, the head of the Chihuahua branch of the National Water Commission, known as Conagua, which regulates supply. He pointed to city dwellers and big non-Mennonite farms that produce apples and pecans — also thirsty crops.

Cornelius Banman, a farmer from the Manitoba colony, about 50 miles south of Santa Rita, said nobody complained about the pecan farmers because they were of Mexican descent and, unlike Mennonites, who do not vote, had political clout.

 “They look on us as foreigners,” he said.

The Mennonites live apart in their colonies and rarely marry outside, though they pay workers above-average wages. The most conservative eschew electricity and other devices that would link them to the outside world.

Others use WhatsApp, a messaging application, and research land prices on the Internet, but they discourage distractions like Facebook.

The women speak little Spanish, and children are raised for a “wholesome” rural life, attending Mennonite schools until eighth grade.

The Mennonites began digging wells for irrigation in the 1980s, said Víctor Quintana Silveyra, a sociologist and politician in Chihuahua City who has studied local water use. As their population grew — they estimate their number at 60,000 — they used credit from Mennonite banks to buy land in the desert and to install irrigation systems. Since 2000, irrigated land in Chihuahua has doubled, to about 1.3 million acres, and farmers are pumping water at an “exploitative” rate, Mr. Quintana said.

Farmers said wells had to be dug three times deeper today than they were 20 years ago, a process some cannot afford. To slow extraction, the government in 2013 ruled that all new wells require a permit.

“I can see a point, in my lifetime, when the water here is finished,” said Luís Armando Portillo, a farmer who is the president of the Technical Committee of Groundwater in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc.

A group of activists known as El Barzón has campaigned to shut down illegal wells and break dams on Mennonite land. Joaquín Solorio, a Barzón activist whose parents had to sell their cattle after their well, next to a Mennonite farm, dried up, said the group had lodged complaints about illegal water use. “It’s not just Mennonites,” he said.

Defending water rights can be deadly in Chihuahua, where links between organized crime, mining and farming are murky. Alberto Almeida Fernández, a former politician who protested against illegal wells and against a Canadian mining project, died after he was shot in February. Two other activists, Mr. Solorio’s brother and sister-in-law, were killed in 2012. The police have yet to solve the crimes, and members of Barzón — three of whom have state police escorts — discard a Mennonite connection. But the deaths have added to tensions.

“You think about buying land, and then you think, ‘I don’t want problems,’ ” said Johan Rempel, a leader of the Manitoba colony who is looking for land overseas for about 100 families.

In some ways, the Mennonites’ migration is another turn of history. Those who moved to Mexico from Canada had fled persecution in Russia. Over the years, some settled in other parts of Mexico, and conservative groups broke from the Mexican colonies and moved to Bolivia, Paraguay and Belize.

But with younger farmers facing new pressures — difficulty getting permits for wells, and soaring costs for irrigated land — some predict that they will look to find land elsewhere.

About 50 of the 300 families in Mr. Friesen’s colony, Santa Rita, will move to San Luis Province in Argentina, said Abraham Wiebe Klassen, the head of the colony. Other colonies have looked at land in Russia and Colombia.

The perception that Mennonites are more attached to their culture than to their country irks other farmers.

“Their world is everywhere,” Mr. Portillo said. “They arrive, they work the earth and when they need more, they move on.”

“This is my land,” he added. “My dead lie here. I won’t leave.”

Abraham Wiebe Wiebe, who was preparing to leave for Argentina with his wife and children, disagreed. “I’m 100 percent Mexican,” he said.

Sitting in his kitchen as his wife rolled out cookies, Mr. Wiebe, 49, said he had “lost a lot of sleep” over leaving. “But our children have no future here,” he said.

 Several Mennonite farmers said they were skeptical that Chihuahua would run dry. Water was God-given, one farmer said, and only God could take it away.
“Doesn’t water go in a cycle?” Mr. Wiebe asked. “You pull it from the ground, and then it rains from the sky.”

Others are less sanguine. Nicolas Wall, a Mennonite who farms 700 acres of corn with his brother, worries that there will not be enough water for his children to farm.

“I think there’ll be an end to it sometime,” Mr. Wall said. “But when?”

The real problem lies with the government, farmers and experts said. The water commission is a “den of corruption,” Mr. Klassen said, a place where officials take years to process paperwork and sell well permits for thousands of dollars.

Mr. Athié did not deny corruption, but said the problem was “older than Christ.”

Mr. Puente said Mexico needed to start a national conversation. People are turning to other energy sources, he said, adding: “But there is no alternative to water. Water is water.”

Mr. Friesen will trade such worries for the challenge of starting a new life on the 250 acres he bought in Argentina. Those already there have built some houses and bought cattle, he said. Three babies have been born.

Hard as it would be to leave “the homeland,” Mr. Friesen said, his five children would “put down roots” in a new place. Standing in the dairy barn as his wife, Gertruda, milked cows, he smiled.
“We’re going to create exactly the same world there that we built here,” he said.

Friday, October 30, 2015


 Unless you have been living in a cave, you likely know that the Republican candidates for POTUS gathered in Boulder on Wednesday for their third debate.  CU touted it as a great opportunity for the students, but not surprisingly, CNBC limited the number of tickets to students at about 100, and allowed an audience of only 1000 in a venue that seats 11,000 plus.  Like everyone else in the nation, the CU students had to decide whether or not to watch the debate on TV.  On the morning of the debate, there was an interesting full-page ad in the Boulder Daily Camera - blurb below from here:

BOULDER, Colo. — In an open letter published Wednesday as a full-page ad in the Boulder Daily Camera, 63 Colorado pastors and other evangelical leaders call on GOP presidential candidates to craft respectful, solutions-based messages on immigration.

In a key state for 2016, the letter counters harsh rhetoric toward immigrants from some presidential candidates and other political leaders.

“The immigrant community and our community are one and the same,” the letter states. “Together, for several years we have diligently worked to create space to dialogue and learn from one another about how the broken immigration system has affected our communities, keeping us divided. And, we have come to this shared conclusion: Immigrants are vital in our communities, and we must treat them with respect and dignity. Our laws must reflect that conclusion.”

“So many of us feel that we need to do something to stand up to the negativity around the immigration debate,” said Michelle Warren, an Evangelical Immigration Table leader in Colorado.

 “We are desperate for a conversation that welcomes immigrants with compassion.”

FULL LETTER - slightly better viewed in link as PDFsole Mennonite signator was Vern Remple.

Image could not be found!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I know, I know, it's been quite a while [although no one mentioned it :-)].  Been quite busy with a new place in the mountains, shifting places in Boulder, etc.  But the eTown YouTube Channel just put up the videos of the Richie Furay and Friends session.  When we saw the initial announcement, we though "Well Furay will be good, and it will be interesting to see who the 'Friends' turn out to be."  Well we were not disappointed - it was a very enjoyable evening with Furay and his daughter,  the Friends Los Lobos and of course the eTown crew .  Below is just one video from the evening; the most iconic of the tunes, but visit the eTown Channel to see many great songs and interviews.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Here is a bit of little known history about my hometown of New Paris, Indiana.  Text taken from an article in the Elkhart Truth here.  I think that nearly all of us New Parisians know about Dwiggins Alfalfa, but likely were not aware of this story.


During World War II, men from Jamaica and other countries came to the U.S. to work on farms. The location of this photo from the Library of Congress is unknown. (Library of Congress)

In an Elkhart Truth article from June 8, 1943, a story chronicles the arrival of 18 men from Jamaica to New Paris. The reason they came to this area was to work at the Dwiggins and Sons alfalfa farm. The company, which ground alfalfa into meal for farm animals, was facing a labor problem before the Jamaicans arrived due to many of its workers fighting in World War II. The men were hired as laborers loading alfalfa onto trucks in the field, and unloading them into dehydrators and choppers back at the mill.

This piece of our county’s history is a small example of a much larger movement that took place throughout the country in order to keep food production during World War II going.

During World War II, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), first established as a New Deal program to assist rural poverty, looked to other nations to employ men to work on farms across the country. We all remember the stories of women entering the workforce as men were fighting in Europe or the Pacific, but there were still some jobs that people believed were too hard for women at the time. Farm work was one of those types of jobs. The U.S. government recognized that with many men being sent off to fight, farming and food production would suffer. They knew they needed to act in order to keep fueling the war effort by producing food and products for the nation.

To solve this problem, the FSA reached agreements with neighboring countries to send men to the United States to work on farms — in total, about 300,000 workers from Canada, Mexico, Barbados and Jamaica came to the United States and were sent to farms all across the county.

One group that worked in New Paris entered the country by way of New Orleans May 1, 1943. They were then sent to an old CCC camp in Brownstown, Ind., while they awaited job assignments. When they reached New Paris and the Dwiggins farm, John Dwiggins reportedly said the men were excited to work on a contract that was set to expire on Sept. 1, but could have been extended.

The men were required to work eight to 10 hours a day and would be paid overtime for all hours over 40 hours per week. The men, per their contracts, would be paid a minimum wage of $3 a day, but Dwiggins indicated they would be paid more than that. Other than being paid for their work, they were provided a number of benefits. They were provided housing by converting an apple butter plant into barracks that became known as the “Jamaican Ranch.” They also received food and any medical care they required.

Another interesting detail is that in their contracts, the Jamaican workers were required to send $1 of their earnings per day to the Jamaican government. They would send their wages to their families, which would then be turned in to their national government.

The “Jamaican Ranch” is a really interesting footnote in our community’s past that teaches us a new facet of World War II history on the home front. In school we all heard about “Rosie the Riverter” and the large waves of women working in factories, as well as the community drives to collect metal, but the national effort to bring in men from other countries is a largely unknown and fascinating piece of history. Not only did they work, but they shared their cultures with us. Imagine the undocumented stories and interactions that would have taken place in New Paris in 1943 between two groups of people that may not have known much about each other.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


The news was not surprising:

With MennoLink activity slowing to a crawl over the past several years, I have decided it is time to acknowledge that it has served its purpose and end the service.

I plan to turn the lights out on MennoLink at the end of December this year.  Until then, you have time to wrap up any loose ends you may have with topics that are unique to this forum. If there are people you connect with mainly on MennoLink, this is a time to find alternate ways to stay in touch.

The MennoLink bookstore is also closing. We are motivated to reduce our inventory as much as possible over the next several months. Visit

and order online or make Laura an offer by calling 507 427 3105. If it is in inventory, she is likely to accept any reasonable offer (usually there is only one copy of each title in inventory).

Jon Harder
Mountain Lake

When MennoLink was born, it was cutting edge regarding electronic discussions.  It grew and grew, with a variety of subcategories of discussion groups with hundreds of subscribers and many regular participants.  A couple of notables were Charlie Kraybill and Ross Bender, with Barry King as the conservative foil to the more liberal contributors.  As Jon Harder notes, the activity has slowed to a crawl, with presumably folks spending more time at other venues such as FaceBook or their own blogs.  However, I have not found any other forum where there is such a wide and deep discussion as there was at MennoLink.  I will miss it.