Tracks of an old Frontier shepherd life: Great Basin Basques




Today, in states like Idaho there are thousands of Basque Americans many of whose ancestors immigrated here a century ago to herd sheep. Henry Etcheverry is one of the last of the Basque sheepmen. His father, Jean Pierre, immigrated in 1929 from the Basque Country (a region in the Pyrenees partly in Spain and partly in France).

Boise, Idaho has the highest concentration of Basques outside the Basque Country. The Mayor is Basque and there’s an entire block dedicated to Basque businesses. Tony Eiguren runs the Basque Market- part store, part restaurant- with his wife Tara.

Many of the buildings on the Basque Block were once boarding houses for recent arrivals to the US. “If a person was immigrating over to the United States to Boise for example they’d get off the train a few blocks from here and come to a boarding house,” explains Annie Gavica of the Basque Museum (3 of her grandparents were Basque).

Today the Sheepherders Ball is still a popular Boise event (Tony met his wife Tara there) and the Basque Block still has a “fronton”, a court for playing Basque pelota, a type of handball played with a bare hand and a hard ball, something “quite painful” according to Gavica.

At 66-years-old Etcheverry still works his sheep ranch- built up by his father and himself with permits to graze thousands and thousands of acres in Idaho and Wyoming- but these days, his shepherds aren’t Basque. “My shepherds are from Peru and this is an opportunity for them to come here and better their lives. They’re here and it’s quite a sacrifice.”

One of his shepherds, Olympio, has spent over a decade working here for Etcheverry. From May to September he lives in a sheep wagon- or sheep camp- in the mountains, following the sheep. Etcheverry brings him food and supplies every few days, but he spends most of his time alone, sleeping, eating and cooking in his tiny home on wheels. He uses a propane burners to cook, firewood stove for heating, a cooler as a refrigerator and washes his clothes by hand. Olimpio says he’s used to the lifestyle since he started in the same line of work as a young boy in Peru. He admits it can be lonely, but he points out the advantages of what Etcheverry calls a sacrifice. “It’s really beautiful to take care of animals. The countryside is beautiful.”

Etcheverry has no luck finding workers in nearby Boise or Salt Lake City. “When this way of life is over for me I doubt there is going to be anyone behind me here. It’s too hard. Saturday and Sunday. You do what you got to do. People don’t want to do that anymore.”

Special thanks to Paul Shin for dancing footage:

Previous Mocha Choca Lattes - Rockin White Hazel (How to make like GREAT coffee shops)
Next TOP 8 Bollywood Cult Classics You Wont Believe Were Flops

26 Comments

  1. carmichael moritz
    March 5, 2017
    Reply

    the guy at 0:43 sure get his gratification from talking about what he owns ,, must be nice to have so much and not worry about money ,,

  2. carmichael moritz
    March 5, 2017
    Reply

    the one guy said the hired help was willing to work ,, i think its more on able to work ,, on the ability of one to actually be able to work ,,

  3. carmichael moritz
    March 5, 2017
    Reply

    that is such beautiful bush country , and i agree when he says at 16:30 into the video , that if you cant appreciate this , something is wrong with your head ,,

  4. Timothy Griffaton
    March 7, 2017
    Reply

    It's like a different time as if modern times never quite touched this industry. Here at least.

  5. Larry Vickery
    March 17, 2017
    Reply

    A fascinating 25 minutes.

  6. soft marble
    March 29, 2017
    Reply

    very wonderful coverage of a beautiful time in American history. I love how you've given great insight into the "sheppard's hut" and shown it's practical and original use, not simply showing some urbanite using it as a studio.

  7. Justin Russell
    May 9, 2017
    Reply

    if you could plz forward this message to this gentleman he has any openings for work to plz get ahold of me I'm ex army live in p.a I've built pole barns for my self up and down the east coast for the last 10 years, I'm 35 looking to move on and find a new love, I grew up on a dairy farm in Upstate New York Clayton to be specific

  8. l.m. Getz
    May 10, 2017
    Reply

    Miss those Aspen trees..I am from Colorado..now in Arizona.

  9. Taka Yama
    May 10, 2017
    Reply

    I've been to Basque Country of Spain several times. Now, I like paella okay, but dagnabbedit, not every single day! Get tired of that mess.

  10. jerome kugan
    May 15, 2017
    Reply

    Loving this channel – love, love, love!

  11. MsNevadakid
    June 19, 2017
    Reply

    basquooooo! american west history! picon punch, great drink from the basque people.. happy trails…

  12. dippitydoinit
    June 24, 2017
    Reply

    what a life

  13. MsNevadakid
    July 20, 2017
    Reply

    truth in what his papa said about { this country needs a depression every 10 yrs. to keep everybody in check}.. great vid. … happy trails…

  14. Derrek Duden
    July 30, 2017
    Reply

    This would be my perfect job living tiny and working in gods country and loving every minute of it

  15. Laura Bowers
    August 13, 2017
    Reply

    your work is so important Kirsten. thank you for doing what you do and sharing it with us!

  16. Maria Trayter
    September 7, 2017
    Reply

    I had watched this video previously dear Kirsten. It is amazing and so awesome to see people from overseas who went to Amerika to build a good life and a future.I had commented on another video where they were building Shepherds wagons.I so much admire your videoing and how great it is to see and watch it grow in popularity. May you continue to give us your viewers more joy of different places and countries to experience.Not all of the folks can Go overseas to see beautiful places. So, if I may say, Keep on going with success into the future and keep people having more joy with your good videos. God bless.Oh, i wondered if this Gentleman can still speakc the Basque Language of his Father or his Family?

  17. Maria Trayter
    September 7, 2017
    Reply

    Oh, my God Kirsten. You can Speak Español.How wonderful and Ye gods, from afar am I proud of you.And I speak Hungarian and can read Spanish a fair bit. Jolly good it is to know more than English.DO trust in God that the way of life will not Die out after t his Lovely Gent passes from our Earth.

  18. Maria Trayter
    September 7, 2017
    Reply

    So much Grand and beautiful scenery there are.My mouth is agape.

  19. Brandon Contreras
    September 10, 2017
    Reply

    Gypsy cultural or traveler.

  20. Elisha Jones
    October 15, 2017
    Reply

    My Mother was born in Germany and my Father in Ireland. I was born in the US but according to the doctor have ties to the Basque People. I have O- blood that's typical in Basque People. O negs are universal donors yet we can only receive back from another O neg. We account for 6% of the world population.

  21. Lara Nunes
    October 26, 2017
    Reply

    NO one owns mother earth..

  22. Sacred Thyme
    October 26, 2017
    Reply

    True … i was Raised by a sheep herder. Dominique taught me a lot~

  23. Shari B
    October 31, 2017
    Reply

    Love your films, so interesting!

  24. bettybaker 55
    November 8, 2017
    Reply

    A great perspective of history of the U.S. and immigrants from Basque. Fascinating to learn about a part of life I knew little of. Hopefully this gentleman can find someone to take over his position to not loss an important culture.

  25. FeelItRising
    November 14, 2017
    Reply

    'Therefore we encompass the entire Iberian Peninsula.' ?? False

  26. Connie Johansen
    November 25, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, years ago, back in 1973-74 my husband worked for a Basque Sheep Rancher in Eastern Washington. After a training period, we were put out in the middle of nowhere with several sheep and a sheepherders wagon. We were newly married and it was like camping. Thanks for the memories.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *