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The Basque-Algonquin Language of Canada

This article originally appeared in Spanish and Basque on Kondaira’s Facebook page. It is translated and posted here with permission.

zubiaga-basques-native americans

Meeting between Basques and Native Americans by Guillermo Zubiaga (used with permission).

The Basque-Algonquian language is a pidgin that arose for intercommunication between the members of the Mi’kmaq tribe, Innu and other Amerindians with the Basque whalers, cod fishermen, and merchants in Newfoundland, Quebec, the Labrador Peninsula, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Most of its vocabulary consisted of the Micmac, Innu and Basque languages, but also had words from Gascon, since it was the lingua franca of southwest France at the time.

While the Basques were in those waters whaling and fishing cod in the late fourteenth century, it was not until about 1530 that this pidgin was spoken. The Basques established a minimum of nine fishing settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador; the largest could hold 900 people and was in found in what the Basques called Balea Badia (“Whale Bay”), now known as Red Bay (Labrador Peninsula). The French and British sent expeditions to North America, following the routes of the Basque whalers, to explore routes to the Indies shorter than those of the Spanish, as well as to map fishing grounds. The French settled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and began the conquest of North America.

The golden age of Basque-Algonquian would occur between 1580 and 1635. In 1612, Marc Lescarbot, writing in his “Histoire de la Nouvelle France” (History of New France), indicates that the local population spoke a language to communicate with the Europeans which had Basque words. In 1710 there was still evidence of the use of Basque-Algonquian.

Regarding this pidgin, Esteban de Garibay, chronicler of King Philip II of Spain, in 1571 published a book in Antwerp where he showed that the Basque language was not a difficult language to learn. Garibai cites the case of the Canadian Indians who had learned it:

“… Since the sailors of the province of Gipuzkoa and the lordship of Biscay and the Basque Country go each year to the newly discovered land [Newfoundland] to fish and hunt, the savages of that region learned their Cantabrian language [Basque] despite the brief communication, of such short duration, that they have with the people from here just once a year, for a period of less than three months. And if that people deprived of reason and organization is able to learn it, how much easier it would be for the people of respectable life of our old world. “

Lope Martínez de Isasti wrote in 1625:

“… in a region so remote like Newfoundland the mountain-dwelling savages have learned to communicate with the Basque sailors, who go annually for the cod fish, which among other things they are asked in Basque: nola zaude (how are you): they respond gracefully: Apaizac Obeto (the priests are better): without knowing what is a priest, but by hearing about them. They speak and deal with us, and they help with the fishing on the riverbank for the barter of some cake and cider which they do not have there. “

Basque sailors also brought Christianity to those lands. This is indicated by a person from the Micmac tribe to a European missionary in his language:

“Noukhimami Jesus, ïagoua Khistinohimaonitou Khik hitouina CaiE Khiteritamouïn. Ca cataouachichien ouccaonia Jesu Maria, Joseph cacataouachichien aïamihitouinan.” [My Lord Jesus, teach me your words and your will! Oh, good Mary, Mother of God! Oh, good Jose! Pray for me!]

map-whale hunting grounds

Map from 1592 listing areas for whale hunting.

In 1616 a Jesuit missionary noted that Amerindians of Port-Royal (Nova Scotia) used the word “adesquidex” (Basque adiskide [friend]) to greet the French. In 1603, another French missionary established in Tadoussac (Quebec) claimed that the Amerindians called the “Montagnais” made use of the word “ania” (Basque anaia [brother]) to greet just the French, while amongst themselves they used the word “nichtais”.

The result of this pidgin is that the Micmac integrated Basque words into their language. From the Basque word atorra (shirt), the Basque-Algonquian word “atouray” derived and from this the actual Micmac word “atlei”; “king” is said in Micmac as “elegewit” (from the Basque-Algonquian “elege” which, in turn, is from the Basque errege) or, for example, France is called “Plansia” (from the colloquial Basque “Prantzia”).

Today, place names of Basque origin in this region where Basque-Algonquian was spoken are abundant, as well as French place names that refer to the Basques.The ancient name for Montreal, Hochelaga, used by the Huron people, is considered by some etymologists to be a place name of Basque origin.

Examples of Basque-Algonquian

Basque-Algonquian Basque English
Ania, kir captain? Anaia, kapitaina to zara? Brother, are you Captain?
Nola zaude? Apezak Obeto Nola zaude? Apaizak hobeto How are you? The priests are better.
Gara gara ender-quir gara gara Gerra izango dugu We will have war.
Endia chave Normandia Frantsesek asko dakite The French know a lot.
Adesquidex/s Adiskide Friend
Endia Handia Large
Ania Anaia Brother
Kessona Gizona Man
Canadaquoa Kanadakoa From Canada
Escorken Mozkor Drunk
Chabaya Xabaia, Basatia Wild
Baccalaos Bakailoa Cod
Elege Errege King
Orignak Oreinak Deer
Makia Makila Stick
Maria Balea Whale
Caracona Gariona, ogia Good Wheat, Bread

 

More articles on the history of the Basque Country and the Basque language are at the Facebook page of Kondaira.net: www.facebook.com/kondaira.net

Basque Country has 5 of the top 50 Restaurants in the World

I’m a man of simple tastes, seemingly from a long line of Uberuagas with similar levels of refinement. My dad would rather make sure he get his dollar’s worth at an all-you-can-eat buffet. And when I took my aunts, who grew up in rural Bizkaia, to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and I asked them what their favorite thing was in the museum, they said “The frames (on the paintings) were nice.”top-50-2014

That said, even I can recognize the singular place that food holds in the Basque Country. I easily gain 15 pounds whenever I visit, partially because my family won’t stop shoving full plates of food in front of me every 15 minutes, but also because the food is simply so wonderful.

But there is food, and then there is food, and the Basque County excels at food in a way that few other regions in the world can boast. David Cox alerted me to the fact that Restaurant Magazine just released their 2014 list of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and the Basque Country has 5 restaurants on the list, 3 in Gipuzkoa and 2 in Bizkaia (Real fans, at least you win this one).

I’ve never eaten at any of these places, and don’t know when I will, but it is simply amazing to me that a region of the world that has less than 0.03% of the world’s population can have 10% of the world’s top restaurants.

In case some of you are looking for a gastronomical oasis for your next adventure, the Basque restaurants on the list are:

If anyone has had the pleasure of dining at one of these restaurants, please share your experience!

Buber’s Basque Page, Sports Edition, Part 1: Stone Lifting

jaialdi_89b.jpgIn 1987, attending my first (and everyone’s first) Jaialdi, I got my first taste of rural Basque sport. There were the aizkolaris and the sukatira, but probably the most impressive were the harrijasotzaileak, or the stone lifters. Men like Inaki Perurena were enormous celebrities in the Basque Country (after he retired, Inaki was a TV star as well, much like the American football player Michael Strahan is today in the US). These men lifted immense stones, sometimes going for the greatest weight or other times lifting smaller stones but as many times as they could. 

Not that you can tell by looking at me, but it would seem that I come from a family of strong Basque men. My dad’s dad and my dad’s uncle were both known in the heart of Bizkaia for their feats of strength. My dad’s uncle, in particular, Juan Uberuaga Urionaguena, a sheepherder who returned to Euskadi, was a well known athlete. When I was living there, in 1991-92, they put on an exhibition in his honor of various Basque sports. Unfortunately, I was not aware enough to document it… One of the most vivid memories I have of that day were the animal tests, in which donkeys and oxen are made to pull large stones as far as they could. Of course, to an American sensibility, it seemed a bit cruel. Spectators would bet on each event. I’ve heard that there are now doping problems with the animals. Any time money enters sport…

In any case, all of this brings me to a very nice article in the New York Times that introduces the world of Basque rural sports and, in particular, stone lifting. Journalist Dave Seminara visited Leitza and Inaki Perurena, and Inaki’s monument to the sport, his Peru Harri, a farm-museum dedicated to his exploits and the sport of stone lifting more generally. The museum sounds quite exotic, with statues of stone lifters and other aspects of Basque culture outside while inside there are videos and mementos from the sport itself. Leitza sounds like a beautiful village, nestled in the mountains of Nafarroa, worth a visit in its own right. For some photos of the museum and the statues, you can visit this site.

I do have to say that stone lifting isn’t my favorite Basque rural sport. Several years later, somewhere in Euskadi, I saw an event in which the athlete pulls a weight up via a rope on a pulley and then lets it fall. As it falls, he grabs the rope, launching himself into the air. The goal is to lift the weight, typically a bundle of hay, as many times as possible. It is very dramatic as the athlete uses the momentum of the falling weight to pull himself up and then gravity to get him a jump-start on the next pull.

 

The Buber Prizes

The Buber Prizes are an annual event in which the best Basque websites and internet applications are recognized. For me, these logoawards are particularly meaningful, as the awards are named after these pages, partially as a recognition of the role of Buber’s Basque Page in the history of Basques on the internet and partially because “buber” doesn’t mean anything offensive in Euskara or Castellano…

One of the things that most impresses me about the Basque Country is the way they embrace everything modern, such as the internet, to help promote such ancient things like their language and culture. It is this confluence of the ancient and modern that makes the Basque Country such a dynamic and intriguing place.

Awards are given in a number of categories. For example, for mobile application, the winner this year is Spotbros, an application for “cloud messaging”, which promises to revolutionize how you share things with your friends. Euskalkultura.com, a news site focused on Basque heritage world-wide and lead by an old friend of mine, Joseba Etxarri, won for the best website in Euskara. There are also prizes for best corporate site, best personal site, and best free software.

A few of the runners-up are also of particular interest. MundakaBC is dedicated to the Basque city of Mundaka, world-famous for its surf. For those of you who are keen about wine, Dastagarri is an app for you. It allows you to keep track of your wine and of notes about wine you’ve tasted, all stored on the cloud for access from anywhere.

The Buber Prizes not only recognize a few outstanding sites, but also the overall effort of the Basque internauts. I’m particularly proud that my “name” is associated with these prizes, as the efforts of the people behind these sites and apps is truly outstanding.

In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)

As many of you already know, Pete Cenarrusa, a long time politician in Idaho (the longest serving elected official in state history) died on September 29. It didn’t take long after his death for his life to be questioned in the Spanish press, particularly as it related to an incident in 2002 when the Idaho legislature, at the behest of Pete and then representative Dave Bieter, passed a non-binding resolution that supported the Basque right to self-determination.

In response, a number of Basque bloggers around the world wrote a joint defense of Pete Cenarrusa. With their permission and encouragement, I repost that blog here.

Since the time of the original post, journalist Dan Popkey has written an article published in the Idaho Statesman regarding both the initiative to defend Pete as well as providing some clarifying details: Cenarrusa still stirs pot in Spain.

In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)

Pete Cenarrusa at Fish Creek homesteadPete Cenarrusa died last week at age 95. To begin with, it’s strange to speak of “defending” Pete from anything. He was a wonderful person, somebody many of us admired and respected. His parents were immigrants who grew up in neighboring Basque towns but who met thousands of miles away in the middle of Idaho. Pete’s first language was Basque, and he kept speaking it for the rest of the life, sometimes throwing in English words along the way.

Pete went to the University of Idaho, where he was on the boxing team and completed degrees in agriculture and animal husbandry (at age 92, he blogged that his favorite courses were nutrition, organic chemistry, and bacteriology—“I would recommend these courses to everyone in college.”) He joined the Marines in 1942 and became an aviation instructor. He flew for 59 years, more than 15,000 hours of flight time without an accident.

Pete was elected as a Republican to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1950 and served nine terms, including three as House Speaker. In 1967, when Idaho’s secretary of state died, the governor appointed him to fill the position, where he served until 2003. He wasn’t a politician from central casting. As his friend and successor said at his funeral, Pete wasn’t a good public speaker; but unlike most politicians, Pete knew it. Still, it’s hard to argue with success: Pete never lost an election, and he was in public office for 52 years, the longest-serving elected official in Idaho history.

Then the Spanish national newspaper ABC published an “obituary” by Javier Ruperez, the former Spanish ambassador to the United States. Ruperez calls Pete a “Basque separatist,” a man filled with “blind obstinacy” against Spain “until the very day of his death.” It was a piece written with venom saved up from an event that happened more than a decade ago, spewed out just a couple days after Pete died. Pete can’t stand up for himself now. That’s why we feel a strong obligation to do so.

PETE CENARRUSA (1917-2013)

IDAHO RANCHER, BASQUE SEPARATIST

Deceased at 96, Cenarrusa – which was the way he had shortened his paternal surname Zenarruzabeita – had the leading role in Idaho’s political and social scene for almost six decades, being elected several times to the local legislature and carrying out for years the role of Secretary of State in the rustic territory. His parents emigrated from the Basque Country to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, as many of their compatriots did in those days, in response to the call for sheepherders to run the significant number of livestock in the American West.

From early on, conscious of his Basque origins, he tried to promote individual and collective memories in the environment of his countrymen, an activity that took a noticeable nationalist tone in the 1960s. He wasn’t awarded the prize “Sabino Arana” to the “universal Basque” by the Basque Nationalist Party for nothing.

It was in 2002 when these nationalist inclinations took shape in the attempt to make the Idaho legislature adopt a memorial that ignored ETA’s terrorist activities, demanded a favorable disposition from Spain and France to negotiate “the end of the conflict,” and asked for the self-determination of the Basque Country. Cenarrusa was the inspirer and visible leader of the attempt, for which he had the support of Ibarreche’s Basque government and Batasuna’s contacts incarnated in journalists for “Gara” and “Egunkaria”, regular visitors of the land where they received the hospitality of then local legislator and now mayor of Boise, Idaho’s capital, David Bieter.

The government of Jose Maria Aznar warned George W. Bush’s White House about the maneuver, and made Idaho legislators realize the inconvenience of adopting texts which were offensive to a friend and allied country such as Spain. The spokesman for the Department of State made a strong statement during those days that said, among other things: “The Spanish people suffer the violence carried out by a terrorist organization called ETA on a regular basis.” Exactly what the memo Cenarrusa/Bieter/Ibarreche/ Gara/Egunkaria did not want to gather. And that to the dismay of its sponsors ended up written in the amended text, which was eventually approved by the Idaho legislature.

It was in January 2003 when Idaho’s Senate president had the opportunity to communicate to the representatives of the Spanish government his regret for what happened, blaming it on the extreme ignorance by local representatives about Spanish affairs and the generalized willingness to please Cenarrusa in the last initiative he took on before retiring from his role as Secretary of State. Robert L. Geddes had begged the veteran rancher and politician of Basque origins that “the next time he wanted to declare war on Spain he give him prior notice to avoid misunderstandings.” On that same occasion Idaho’s Senate made the Spanish ambassador in Washington honorary citizen of the State. And Spain officially named Adelia Garro Simplot, another Basque descendant, honorary consul in the area. Garro is the abbreviation of Garroguerricoechevarria. Cenarrusa, who had not thrown in the towel in his blind obstinacy against constitutional and democratic Spain until the very day of his death, wasn’t able to make himself the only representative of Idaho’s Basque community.

As Mark Twain would say, not all deaths are received in the same way.

And an important bit of background: Ruperez , the author, was kidnapped by the Basque terrorist group ETA in 1979. He was held for a month. After he was released, 26 Basque prisoners were freed from prison, and the Spanish parliament agreed to create a special commission to investigate charges of torture of Basque prisoners. We can’t imagine what Rupérez went through, and we wish it would never have happened. It would certainly shape one’s world view. But Pete had nothing to do with that horrible event, and we know he would have condemned it. And that’s where Rupérez is horribly wrong about Pete and about Basques generally.

Toward the end of his career, Pete announced the introduction of a declaration in the Idaho legislature that addressed a critical series of events in the Basque Country and Spain. The declaration, officially known as a “memorial,” called on leaders in the United States and Spain to undertake a peace process. In 2002, Ruperez caught wind of the memorial and immediately flew out to Idaho, alerted the Spanish prime minister, the State Department, and the White House. Suddenly, a declaration by the legislature of a small Western state blew up and became international news.

As the memorial got close to a vote, there was a lot of back and forth among the many parties that had suddenly become involved. But Pete’s reaction was pitch perfect—paraphrasing him: Since when did the United States start running its foreign policy by foreign governments? In the end, the Idaho legislature unanimously approved this memorial. It described the history of Basques in Idaho, the earlier actions by the Idaho legislature to condemn the repression of Franco’s dictatorship, the efforts of Basques to maintain their culture, and all “but a marginalized fraction” of Basques’ condemnation of violence.

Perfect or not, it was a unanimous statement by a democratically elected, autonomous state legislature. But it seems to have haunted Ruperez all these years. Barely 72 hours after Pete had died, Rupérez condemned Pete as “the inspirer and visible leader” of an effort that turned a blind eye at violence, an effort that an Idaho Senate leader later purportedly told him was the result of the “extreme ignorance by local representatives” about Spanish affairs and “the generalized willingness to please Cenarrusa in the last initiative he took on before retiring.” Rupérez suggests that Pete was not typical of Idaho’s Basque community, that there were others who are worthier representatives.

Ruperez closes with a quote he says comes from Mark Twain: “Not all deaths are received in the same way.” Maybe that’s true. Either way, we can assure Mr. Ruperez that Pete’s death was received with a great deal of sadness and with the respect worthy of somebody who had done great things with his life. We would like to conclude by using another quote from Mark Twain that clearly suits perfectly for people like Javier Rupérez: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Agur eta ohore, Pete.

Signed by:

The destruction of San Sebastian, recreated via Twitter

  • Today is July 10, 1813. Donostia has been occupied by Napoleonic troops for 5 years.
  • The Marquess of Wellington, commander of the allied troops, reaches Hernani.
  • The British have already landed troops and weapons and ships have begun the blockage. The siege of Donostia begins.

Denis_Dighton_Storming_of_San_Sebastian200 hundred years ago today, the Siege of Donostia began, which ended in the ransacking and devastation of the city by fire (see this Wikipedia article). This was part of a campaign, the Peninsular War (known in Spain as the Spanish War of Independence), lead by the British, to defeat Napoleon, who, upon taking over France, had named his brother King of Spain. The British forces, lead by the Marquess of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, had just won the Battle of Vitoria and marched on San Sebastian to both “clear their rear guard” and establish a port for supplying their forces. After about two months of siege, they finally took the city. Discovering all of the “brandy and wine” of the shops, many troops got drunk and attacked the civilian population, burning houses, killing people, and raping women.

As an experiment in historical education, Euskomedia is recreating the Siege and Destruction of Donostia via Twitter. Two Twitter feeds, 1813tik in Euskara and 1813tik-es in Spanish, will relay the siege over the coming weeks to provide “real-time” updates on this historical event.

I think this is an awesome idea! It is a very cool way of using modern social media to educate people about history. It tries to capture the power of social media — the way it has been used in revolutions and uprisings in, for example, the Middle East — to recreate dynamic historical events of the past. I think this might be an excellent educational tool and I hope it catches on. The US just marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg — something like this would have been a cool way for people to be more directly engaged in that anniversary.

I only wish they had an English Twitter feed as well!