On May 16, the Port Authority of Bilbao anda  delegation from the Ports of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway signed a Memorandum of Understanding, the goal of which is to improve and increase mutual cooperation, explore the development of commercial relations between both areas, and to exchange inforamtion and know-how on both sides, especially in areas such as sustainability, connectivity, and innovation.

For us, this is just the latest step in a relationship that has been maintained on both sides of the Atlantic for at least 500 years.

A Basque presence over the centuries

We’ve spoken quite a bit about the Basque presence in North America, especially in the area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The Basque fishermen and whalers maintained an uninterrupted presence there for over two centuries.  It was only when the safeguards in the Treaty of Utrecht which guaranteed their right to continue fishing in that area were broken were the Basques finally expelled from their traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

escudo de Saint- Pierre-et-Miquelon.
escudo de Saint- Pierre-et-Miquelon.

It’s no coincidence that the port at the mouth of the Gulf, on the westernmost edge of Newfoundland, is called Channel-Port aux Basques, or that, right next door, we find Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, whose flag bears the Ikurriña.  These are not-so-subtle reminders of the Basque contribution to history in this part of the world.

Today, this part of the Atlantic Ocean is Canadian waters, but the Gulf of St. Lawrence is the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, which goes all the way back to the Great Lakes and even marks part of the border between Canada and the US.

Near one of those lakes, Lake Ontario, the oldest iron tool ever found in North America was discovered: an axe that had been manufactured at a forge in Gipuzkoa.  The story of this iron axe in the hands of the Hurón people was an article here on the blog when the news broke.

The boats that set sail from the Great Lakes pass through waters that, for centuries, were home to Basque sailors who hunted whales and codfish.

They also maintained warm relations with the people who lived on the nearby coasts, the Mi’kmaq people.  They were so warm that they gave rise to a Basque-Algonquian pidgin.  Even today, the surname “Basque” is not uncommon there.

Port Technology – 16/5/2024 – USA

Ports of Bilbao, St. Lawrence Seaway to improve commercial links

This collaboration will reportedly entail looking at the expansion of commercial links between the two regions as well as sharing knowledge and expertise, particularly in areas like sustainability, connectivity, and innovation.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Header photo: Welland Canal, part of the St. Lawrence Seaway


Last Updated on Jun 2, 2024 by About Basque Country

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