The Basques of Reno and the Northeastern Sierra
Thanks to DNA research, the Basques of the Pyrenees Mountains are no longer the “mystery people.” Thirty-five thousand years ago, they traveled from Central Asia to Western Europe, where they still live, speaking a language unlike any other. After helping Columbus discover America, Basques spread out from the Pampas to California and beyond into the Sierra and Reno, Nevada. For a century, they were the sheepherders of the West and documented their lives in a prehistoric manner on trees. Now settled in towns, they celebrate their heritage every year with colorful costumes, dancing, weight lifting, wood chopping, and hearty food that endures in their popular restaurants.
Author Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe grew up in Euskal Herria (the Basque-speaking country), where as a boy he heard stories about Idaho, Nevada, and California told by returnee ex-sheepherders. After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1985, he began video-documenting the history of the Basque community. He has recorded 27,000 arborglyphs in several states and hundreds of hours of Basque picnics, dancing, improvised verse singing, and interviews with sheepherders, which have resulted in several publications. He continues working with federal agencies that manage the public lands where a century of Basque history remains carved.