When I read that Idaho has more Basques per capita than any other place outside of Basque country, I decided a trip to the Basque Museum & Cultural Center during my time in Boise was in order. (The above photograph is from the sidewalk outside the museum.)
The exhibit was worthwhile. Photography wasn't allowed, but I scribbled down some of the fascinating tidbits the museum highlighted.
The Basques are an indigenous ethic group hailing from a region that straddles northern Spain and southern France.
The Basque language, Euskara, is a language isolate, or a language unrelated to any other known living language. The Basques call themselves Euskaldunak, or “those who have Euskara.”
Greek historian Strabo (64 – 24 AD) referred to the Basques as “fierce tribes speaking a very strange language.”
Basques traded fur with the Montagnais, Micmacs, and Inuit in modern-day Canada to the extent that Euskara made its way into some Algonquian languages.
Non-patronymic Basque surnames often come from where the family’s home was located. For example, “Elizondo” means “by the church” and “Zubiondo” means “near the bridge.”
Basque pelota is an ancient game that looks kind of like racquetball … but on steroids. Have a look.
To pass the time, Basque sheepherders in the United States sometimes carved names, dates, pictures, and other stories into aspen trees. Many of these trees still exist throughout the western United States. These arborglyphs have provided scholars with records not found elsewhere.
Boise has the largest urban community of Basques in the United States.