Celebrating Idaho’s Basque Heritage Important For All

JUNE 22, 2016

By Senator Crapo

Basque traditions, art and history form an integral part of our state’s heritage. Basque migrants first brought their work ethic to Idaho over a century ago. Today, Idaho bears the proud mark of that stalwart tradition from the high desert ranges to the halls of the Statehouse. Visitors to our nation’s capital this summer can learn more about and celebrate this central part of Idaho’s culture at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I am honored to serve as an honorary co-host of the Basque contribution to the festival exploring the community’s unique language and distinct cultural heritage.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is scheduled to take place June 29-July 4 and July 7-10 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian notes it will host musicians, artists, cooks, language experts and include significant participation of people of Basque descent living throughout the U.S. Information about the festival can be accessed through the Smithsonian’s website at: www.festival.si.edu/2016/basque/smithsonian.

But, Idahoans do not have to travel to the Folklife Festival to learn more about Idaho’s Basque heritage. The Basque people have a long, proud history in Idaho, which is “home to a large concentration of people of Basque decent,” as described by Boise State University’s Basque Studies Program. The first Basque people began arriving in Idaho around 1890 and have since become an integral part of Idaho’s unique identity. The presence of Idaho’s Basque culture is perhaps most evident in Boise. Boise is a hub of Basque cultural activities.

Worldwide, the Smithsonian explains that, “The Basque constitute one of the oldest communities in Europe, and today approximately 1 million people worldwide speak Basque, or Euskara, a language once on the brink of extinction and now an example of successful language revitalization. In addition to its language, the Basque Country is well known for its food, crafts, music and poetry.”

As part of the celebration of the important role of this culture in Idaho, I have also joined in recommending the commemorative planting of a tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in honor of the Basque people. The tree is a sapling from a Guernika Arbola oak tree that was planted in Boise on Grove Street 36 years ago. This symbolic line of trees has grown in Guernica Spain’s city center for more than four centuries. The sapling that would be planted was grown from a tree that connects to a survivor of the Nazi bombing of Guernica in April 1937.

The strong, determined, industrious and creative spirit of the Basque symbolized in this oak tree endures in Idaho and throughout our nation and world. All Idahoans can take pride in honoring and learning more about this deep heritage that enriches Idaho.