Thursday, November 11, 2010

Basques in Wyoming

I have Basque jealousy. Or more like…Basque envy. I’ve admired the Basque story and the immigrants for years. Perhaps it is my own Polish Mountaineer heritage that resonates because a recent DNA search ties my Dad’s haplogroup to this culture. What ever its origin, I’ve long admired their fierce independence, strong family networks, great food and a sense of balance in their hard work and relaxed play.

The following link is a great short video produced by the Wyoming Arts Council on the Basques in our area:

The Basque region is located on the Iberian Peninsula…sharing land currently held by Spain and France. It is believed that they are some of the first people to appear in Europe perhaps having originated in Egypt tens of thousands of years earlier. Perhaps you have heard of the cave pictures in Spain that are the oldest graffiti in the world? It is believed to have been produced by the Basque. Their culture produced a unique mathematical system based on the number 7. They were excellent seamen and some evidence exists that they landed on the East coast of the Americas 1000 years before Columbus. In fact, most of the sailors that went with Columbus on his voyage to the new world were Basque.
Young men from the region travelled to the United States to make their fortune beginning in the late 1800s. They would spend several years as herders facing isolation and the elements in remote pastures of the American West. Once they had a bit of money saved and perhaps a small flock to begin with, they’d break out on their own, inviting more friends and family members to join them in the opportunities that the US provided. This group became heavily involved in the sheep industry and has probably done more than any other ethnic group to make it what it is today.

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