This article was translated by John R. Bopp

In the past few days, we’ve found a lot of references to Basques in southern Idaho, specifically those living in Blaine Country.  The reason why has to do with one of the great fall festivals held there, according to National Geographic, in “The Trailing of the Sheep“.

We’ve spoken about this on many occasions; it’s quite similar to the Sanmiguelada, when the sheep would be moved from Salazar and Roncal Valleys in the Navarrese Pyrenees to the Bardenas in September.

The Idaho Mountain Express has published a very interesting article by Mark Dee, discussing many interesting things about the Basque presence in that part of the US and the current situation of their small Basque colony, with the festival as the perfect backdrop.

Ejemplos de arborglyphs vascos en USA
Examples of Basque arborglyphs in the US

The carved stories the article refers to are the arborglyphs that we’ve blogged about before: drawings and messages carved into tree bark by shepherds during the long, lonely periods of time they had to live through while watching the sheep they’d been assigned.


From there, the author begins telling the history, the stories, of their arrival to the US for over a century in search of fortune, be it finding gold or taking care of sheep.  Some of these stories take us on a journey that starts out in the Basque Country, wends through the sugarcane fields of Australia, and ends up in the Far West, in Blaine County, where, in the 1950, author and great friend to the Basques Ernest Hemingway (who we’ve blogged about quite a bit here on the blog) spent many a night in long conversations with Pilar and Paulita Arriaga, two Basque emigrés to that part of the world.

Another highly interesting story is that of the loss of the connection between the Basque descendants and their roots.  It’s a problem born of the small Basque population there.  That makes it difficult to create the community structures that help keep the connections with the homeland alive.

It’s in larger towns, with Basque communities that are large enough, where it’s possible to create the community structures that keep national traditions alive.  As we always like to recall, that’s all there is, keeping the connections with one’s roots alive and thereby fulfilling the request made by Lehendakari Aguirre in 1942 for all diaspora Basques “to be, in their adopted homelands, the best citizens”.

That request was aimed especially at the Basques who had to leave in exile starting in 1937, because those who had already settled outside their homeland were, at that time, proving their ability to be the best citizens in every way possible.  In the US, for example, they were fighting against totalitarianism from within the army.

In any case, this information helps us to better know, and understand, how we are losing touch with the Basque descendants living in areas with smaller Basque communities.  We’re a small country, so every Basque person in the world is needed.  We can’t afford to lose even one.  We know it’s a tough challenge, but in this age of social networks that allow us to reach every corner of the planet, there must be mechanisms and tools to ensure that these compatriots can get to know their origins and feel connected to them and identify with them.

As on other occasions, the complex legislation in the EU regarding data privacy means that people in Europe cannot access some websites; this is one of them.  But since the article seemed so interesting to us, we thought it deserved a space in our blog, so we asked them for permission to reproduce the article here in its entirety, as well as providing a link to the original so that those of you who are outside the EU GDPR can read it on their website.  They were kind enough to give us permission, so we thank them for that.  We’re also including a Google automatic translation of the article.

Como ya nos ha pasado en otras ocasiones, la compleja normativa de protección de datos de la UE hace casi imposible para los ciudadanos europeos que podamos acceder a diarios de otras partes del mundo. Este es un caso de estos. pero como el artículo nos parecía muy interesante y que merecía tener un espacio en nuestro blog, hemos pedido permiso al diario para que aparte de colocar un enlace a la fuente original, podamos reproducir en su integridad el artículo en PDF. Permiso que hemos recibido. Algo que agradecemos. Además incluiremos una traducción del artículo (por traducción automática de Google).

The Idaho Mountain Express – 9/10/2019 – USA

Basques carve their history

The Oinkari Basque dancers of Boise carry their culture’s banner in the Trailing of the Sheep Parade. The city has the largest Basque community in the United States. Express photo by Roland Lane
The Oinkari Basque dancers of Boise carry their culture’s banner in the Trailing of the Sheep Parade. The city has the largest Basque community in the United States. Express photo by Roland Lane

The first Basques in Blaine County wrote their stories in the trees. Thin blades through old-growth aspen, that worked best. You’d see nothing at first, a paper cut in parchment bark. The words grew with the timber, stretched and split and darkening until, summers later, a sign would appear. A map, a name, a history.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Copyright Express Publishing, Inc., Ketchum, Idaho, USA.


Last Updated on Dec 20, 2020 by About Basque Country

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