Fighting Basques: A Passion for flying — The Etcharts of Montana in World War II

This article originally appeared in Spanish at El Diario. You can find all of the English versions of the Fighting Basques series here.

Wedding photograph of Catherine Urquilux and John Etchart, 1912. All photos courtesy of the Etchart family.

Like many young people of his generation, and like in many cases following in the footsteps of his parents or close relatives, Jean Etchart Chabagno, a young man from Nafarroa Beherea born in the town of Aldude in 1882, began his own life journey in the late 1900s to the United States. There he joined his older brother Mitchel, who had previously emigrated to California. His father, Ferdinand Etchart Iriquy (Aldude, 1826-1905), had arrived in California in 1848 by way of Argentina upon news of the discovery of gold that same year. Ferdinand was among the first Basques to arrive in the United States during those times who, with their achievements, encouraged chain emigration, particularly in relation to the expansion of the sheep industry in the American West, which remained active for more than 100 years and attracted thousands of Basques and Navarrese from both sides of the Pyrenees. Many of these Basques would return after years of hard work and sacrifice, while others would remain in the United States, forming a diaspora that has never forgotten its roots (1) .

“Echoes of two wars, 1936-1945” aims to disseminate the stories of those Basques and Navarrese who participated in two of the warfare events that defined the future of much of the 20th century. With this blog, the intention of the Sancho de Beurko Association is to rescue from anonymity the thousands of people who constitute the backbone of the historical memory of the Basque and Navarre communities, on both sides of the Pyrenees, and their diasporas of emigrants and descendants, with a primary emphasis on the United States, during the period from 1936 to 1945.

Guillermo Tabernilla
is a researcher and founder of the Sancho de Beurko Association, a non-profit organization that studies the history of the Basques and Navarrese from both sides of the Pyrenees in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. He is currently their secretary and community manager. He is also editor of the digital magazine Saibigain. Between 2008 and 2016 he directed the catalog of the “Iron Belt” for the Heritage Directorate of the Basque Government and is, together with Pedro J. Oiarzabal, principal investigator of the Fighting Basques Project, a memory project on the Basques and Navarrese in the Second World War in collaboration with the federation of Basque Organizations of North America.

Pedro J. Oiarzabal is a Doctor in Political Science-Basque Studies, granted by the University of Nevada, Reno (USA). For two decades, his work has focused on research and consulting on public policies (citizenship abroad and return), diasporas and new technologies, and social and historical memory (oral history, migration and exile), with special emphasis on the Basque case. He is the author of more than twenty publications. He has authored the blog “Basque Identity 2.0” by EITB and “Diaspora Bizia” by On Twitter @Oiarzabal.

Josu M. Aguirregabiria is a researcher and founder of the Sancho de Beurko Association and is currently its president. A specialist in the Civil War in Álava, he is the author of several publications related to this topic, among which “La batalla de Villarreal de Álava” (2015) y “Seis días de guerra en el frente de Álava. Comienza la ofensiva de Mola” (2018) stand out.

Jean (also known as John), his brother Mitchel and his cousin Martin Chabagno moved to Elko, Nevada, and started a successful sheep operation in 1901 with a fourth partner (a local banker) which was based on transhumance and the abundant availability of free pasture land. Following a workplace accident that John suffered in 1909, the company was dissolved in equal parts. John received $20,000, which at the time was a small fortune, considering that his first salary as a sheepherder had been, eight years earlier, $20 a month. John might well have chosen to return permanently to his hometown, but he only did so for a short period of time, returning to the US in 1910. He settled in Saco, 80 miles west of Glasgow, the capital of Valley County in Montana which was founded in 1887 (2). The county — with an area of ​​13,000 square kilometers, rich pastures, and a population not exceeding 140,000 people in 1910 — was the ideal place to establish the type of livestock business that John had in mind. After buying land and a first flock of sheep, he returned to Aldude in 1912 where he married his young love Catherine Urquilux Mococain, born in 1888 in Aldude. They made Valley their first and last home and never returned to Aldude.

John continued to expand his ranch with the acquisition of new land and livestock. By 1920, Rancho Etchart was considered one of the most important in the Valley. Within it grew the five children produced by John and Catherine’s marriage: Ferne (1915-1984), Jean “Gene” (1916-2018), Mitchel “Mitch” (1921-2019), Mark (1924-1992) and Leonard (1928-2015). With Euskera as their mother tongue and the only language spoken at home, the two oldest arrived at school without knowing a word of English. After being reprimanded by the school teacher, their mother decided to teach her children English, gradually forgetting Basque. In a 2017 interview with Gene that took place in Billings, Yellowstone County, conducted by Joseba Etxarri, director of Euskalkultura, and one of the authors of the blog Pedro J. Oiarzabal, the 100-year-old Gene remembered only a few words and individual phrases in Basque that he learned in his childhood. At the time of John’s sudden death on April 17, 1943, Etchart Ranch was roughly 250,000 acres in size and had about 40,000 to 50,000 sheep and a good number of Hereford cattle. John had become one of the most influential ranchers in the American West. Catherine passed away in 1978, at the age of 90, in Billings.

Young Mitch and Mark playing with a toy airplane.

From childhood, the brothers Gene, Mitch and Mark cultivated a true passion for aviation, popularized by the circus shows and high recklessness of the acrobatic aviators of the Roaring 1920s. Despite the initial reluctance of their parents — Catherine’s younger brother Jean Baptiste Urquilux had died in a plane crash in Santa Monica, California, in 1919 — Gene paved the way for his brothers in the world of aviation, which would guide and shape their professional lives, particularly those of Gene and Mitch and their service with the US Air Force during World War II.

The Etchart family in 1941. Standing, from left to right: Leonard, Mitch, Ferne, Gene and Mark. In the center, John and Catherine.

After graduating from high school, Gene Etchart received his first flying lessons with his father’s permission, becoming a private pilot in 1938. Gene obtained his first plane, an “Aeronca“, at the age of 20, which was of great use for locating lost cattle, supplying and visiting his father’s scattered sheep camps, and controlling the coyote population. By 1940, he had become Montana’s youngest commercial pilot and instructor, engaging in coyote hunting from the air, a dangerous activity at heights between 50 and 100 feet. At that time, Gene began flying as an instructor for the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The CPTP was designed to augment the soldier training program due to the lack of trained military pilots at the time. Before the outbreak of war, Gene owned and operated three CPTP flight schools in Montana. Gene inspired many young people to fly, including his brother Mitch, whom he taught to fly in 1940. By July 1941, Mitch had become a certified flight instructor himself, earning his business license at the age of 19. He worked as a CPTP instructor for a flight company in Belgrade, Montana until the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mitch and Gene, in military uniform, in Oxnard, 1943.

When the United States went to war, Gene, along with his siblings Mitch and Ferne, went straight away to Oxnard, California. There Ferne Etchart worked on the Air Force base itself, while Gene enlisted in the Army Air Corps in December 1942. Gene continued to train pilots for the Army at the Mira Loma Flight Academy until 1943, when he had to return home to take over the ranch due to his father’s death. Gene was discharged with the rank of lieutenant.

Mitch Etchart in his air pilot uniform, 1944.

Mitch Etchart went on to instruct aviation cadets performing basic training on the “Stearman” biplanes and later in a second phase of their training with the more complex “Vultee” BT-13 in Lancaster, California. In July 1943, Mitch was commissioned as a second lieutenant, flight supervisor, and control pilot in the Army Air Corps in Oxnard. In June 1944 he began his training as a fighter pilot, flying the P-39 and P-40, and received training as a gunner in the AT-6 “Texan“. Shortly before the war ended, he transitioned to the P-51 fighter, but did not fly in combat operations. The US had detonated the first atomic bomb, and the end of the war was imminent. He returned to the family ranch in September 1945 and remained in the Air Force Reserve, 9418th Fighter Squadron at Glasgow Base, Montana, for 20 years until his retirement as Lieutenant Colonel (3).

In Gene’s absence, Mark Etchart took over his brother’s flight school in Miles City, Montana, until his return in 1943. Mark became a pilot in 1942 and eventually obtained a commercial pilot’s license and instructor qualification. Despite his devotion to airplanes, Mark was not recruited by the Air Force but by the Navy, at the end of the war, graduating in 1946. Like his father John, and his brothers Gene and Mitch, Mark also became involved in agricultural and livestock policy and public land and water management issues, at Valley County, state and national levels. Although Mark’s father tried unsuccessfully to win a seat in the state legislature, it would be Mark who would become a state senator for Valley County for five terms, between 1975 and 1985. Previously, he had been a member of the Montana House of Representatives, serving between 1961 to 1969. He also became president of the Montana Pilots Association. Mark passed away in 1992 and the Etchart Ranch was sold in 1993.

Mark Etchart in his naval uniform with his mother Catherine, 1945.

Gene, Mitch and Mark continued to make their dream of flying come true for the rest of their lives, both for pleasure and business, flying being quite effective for managing their extensive ranches. Gene maintained his flight status until 2010, at almost 95 years old, pioneering the use of planes in ranch work. He kept his flight license active for 72 years, one of the oldest in the country. Mitch stopped flying in 2009 at the age of 88. He had over 10,000 flight hours and was a certified flight instructor with more than 69 years of experience. In 2001, the Montana Pilots Association awarded Mitch the Senior Pilot of the Year Award and his name was inscribed on the Wall of Honor at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. In 2004 Mitch received the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award. Gene passed away on May 3, 2018 at the age of 101 in Billings. He was probably the oldest Basque World War II veteran. Mitch passed away on August 13, 2019 in Glasgow, two days after his 98th birthday.

  • (1) Laxalt Urza, Monique. “Catherine Etchart. A Montana love story”. Montana, The Magazine of Western History, (1981): 2-17.
  • (2) Saitua, Iker. “John Etchart: A Basque leading stockman in the American West”. Euskonews, No. 742 (Septiembre 2019) Euskonews, No. 742
  • (3) Tabernilla, Guillermo y González, Ander. (2018). Combatientes vascos en la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Madrid: Desperta Ferro.

If you want to collaborate with “Echoes of Two Wars,” send us an original article on any aspect of the WWII or the Spanish Civil War and the Basque or Navarre participation to the following email:

Articles selected for publication will receive a signed copy of “Basque Combatants in World War II”.

Basque Fact of the Week: Egunkaria, the First Basque-Only Daily Newspaper

Today, if you go to the Basque Country, you will see Basque media pretty much everywhere. There is a Basque-language television station, a Basque newspaper (Berria), Basque radio stations, and Basque magazines. There are bookstores full of books written in Euskara. However, the concept of a daily newspaper written entirely in Basque is relatively new. The publication of Egunkaria in 1990 changed the landscape for Basque media. Thirteen years later, Spanish authorities shut the newspaper down.

Image from El Temps.
  • The first issue of Egunkaria, meaning daily in Euskara, hit the stands on December 6, 1990. The idea for Egunkaria grew out of meetings that started in November, 1989, based on the principles of being aimed at Basque-speakers; having a national, broad, and united appeal; being independent of political parties and the Spanish media; and being non-institutional but subsidized. By 2003, it contained an average of 70 pages, sold 15,000 copies, and reached 44,000 readers.
  • In February, 2003, Spanish judge Juan del Olmo ordered the newspaper to be shut down. The Guardia Civil raided the newspaper’s offices and froze their assets. The charges were “illegal association” and “membership of, or collaboration with, ETA.” The newspaper was forced into liquidation by these charges, essentially ceasing to exist. A similar fate had hit the newspaper Egin only a few years before. Several people associated with the paper were arrested and detained, including Iñaki Uria, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Txema Auzmendi, Xabier Alegria, Pello Zubiria, Xabier Oleaga, and Martxelo Otamendi. Several of these men reported being tortured while held by the Spanish authorities.
  • The closure of the newspaper sparked international outcry. The British newspaper The Independent made a donation to help Egunkaria‘s eventual replacement, Berria, get going. Famed writer Salman Rushdie, then president of the PEN America, spoke out in support of the defendants. A number of human rights organizations also protested these actions.
  • Almost immediately after Egunkaria‘s closure, a new temporary daily newspaper, Egunero, was published, the first issue released on February 21, 2003 with a circulation of 50,000. And, in June, 2003, a more permanent replacement, Berria, hit the stands, with Martxelo Otamendi, former director of Egunkaria, as its director. Berria is still being published.
  • The criminal case against Egunkaria and the men detained was finally settled in 2010, by which time Egunkaria had long ceased to exist. The Criminal Court of the Audiencia Nacional of Spain stated that there was no grounds to have the newspaper closed. Specifically, they said that “the narrow and erroneous view according to which everything that has to do with the Basque language and with culture in that language is promoted and/or controlled by ETA leads to an incorrect assessment of facts and figures, and to the inconsistency of the accusation” and that “the allegations have not proven that the defendants have the slightest relation with ETA, and this determines in itself the acquittal with all pronouncements favorable to the defendants.”
  • One of those defendants, Joan Mari Torrealdai, died on July 31, 2020 of cancer that he said was caused by the torture he had received. Not only was Torrealdai instrumental in Egunkaria — he was President of the newspaper’s Administration Council — he was editor of the journals Jakin and Anaitasuna, Chairman of the PuntuEUS Foundation, and the author of many books focused on Basque writing and language. In 2007, he was made a full member of Euskaltzaindia, the Royal Academy of the Basque Language). He was 78 years old.

Primary sources: Wikipedia: Egunkaria (English); Wikipedia: Egunkaria (Euskara);

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 12

A few days later, Maite found herself sitting at a small table outside one of her favorite tabernas on the plaza in Gernika. She took a sip of her cortado. “I guess it is only fair that he keeps me waiting this time,” she thought to herself.

She saw Kepa appear from around the corner, recognizing his dark curls from blocks away. She smiled as he approached the cafe, scanning the crowd. When he saw her, he smiled. She stood as he approached, and they traded kisses on the cheeks. As they sat down, Maite said “Sorry I didn’t order for you, I wasn’t sure what you would want.”

“No worries,” said Kepa, waiving to the waitress at the bar. The young blond woman, wearing a short apron over her white blouse and black slacks, came up to their table. 

“A caña, mesedez.” 

The woman nodded as she headed back towards the bar.

“It is good to see you,” Kepa said. “I’ve missed you.”

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Maite laughed. “I bet you did. Sorry for how I left you last time.”

“No, no,” said Kepa, shaking his head, “it was wonderful. But, I admit, I’m very confused.”

Maite sighed. “Kepa, sometimes…” She was interrupted by the waitress who placed Kepa’s beer on the table. 

“Mil esker,” he said absentmindedly, staring alternatively at Maite and his beer.

“Look, Kepa,” said Maite, leaning forward in her chair. “You are my best friend and I love hanging out with you. But, I want something more. And I think you might too. But, right now is also a difficult time for me. I’m about to finish school and I need to figure out what I’m doing next.” She sighed again, flopping back into her chair. “I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you mean?” asked Kepa.

“I mean,” replied Maite, the emotion rising in her voice, “that I don’t know if I should pursue things with you or not. If I should go to America or not. If I…”

“Go to America?” interrupted Kepa. “What?”

“I’ve been tentatively accepted to a graduate program in the United States,” replied Maite, her eyes darting back and forth, looking at everything except Kepa.

“What do you mean tentatively?”

“Final acceptance depends on a visit and an interview,” she said. 

“What do your parents think?” asked Kepa.

“I haven’t told them,” replied Maite, her eyes welling up with tears. “How can I? I can’t hurt them like that.” She looked into Kepa’s eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”

Kepa reached out across the table and took Maite’s hands. He gave her that crooked little smile that always made the butterflies flutter in her stomach. “Your parents are the strongest people I’ve ever known. Yeah, sure, it will be hard, but they will be fine. And, it’s only an interview, right? You don’t have to make a decision yet.”

“What about you?” asked Maite. “I don’t want to hurt you either.”

“Me?” answered Kepa, his smile widening. “I’m coming with you. I’ve always wanted to see America.”

Basque Fact of the Week: Jon Rahm, Number 1 Golfer in the World

On Sunday, July 19, 2020, Jon Rahm won the Memorial Tournament, founded in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus and held every year in Dublin, Ohio. The win catapulted Rahm to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his young career. Rahm was born in the Basque Country and is the first Basque golfer to reach the top of the world ranking.

Image from Golf Post.
  • Jon Rahm Rodríguez was born in Barrika, Bizkaia, on November 10, 1994. Barrika is one of the oldest towns in Bizkaia, founded in 496 by Sancho Vela. Rahm’s mother is from Madrid while his father is from the Basque Country. The Rahm name comes from an ancestor who immigrated to Bilbao from Switzerland in the 1820s. Rahm is a big supporter of Athletic Bilbao.
  • Rahm went to school at Arizona State University, in Tempe, Arizona. He won 11 college tournaments, the second most in ASU’s history (second only to Phil Mickelson). During his collegiate years, he achieved the top ranking in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, a position he held for 60 weeks, the most in history.
  • Rahm entered the back nine of the Memorial Tournament with an 8 stroke lead, but saw it evaporate to 3 strokes. He was penalized 2 strokes as his ball moved the literal width of a dimple before he hit it. But, Rahm never disputed the call. When he saw the video of the the stroke, he accepted the penalty without complaint.
  • After winning the Memorial, in a post-tournament interview, Rahm thanked his parents in Euskara: “AitaAmaeskerrik askoeskerrik asko guztiagatikbenetaneskerrik asko.”
  • Rahm isn’t the first Basque golfer to do well on the international stage. José María Olazábal Manterola, born in Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa, won the Masters Tournament twice, in 1994 and 1999, and had a total of 30 professional wins. Olazábal holds the record for the longest put, 9.323 miles… he made the shot on a traveling Concorde jet. His highest world ranking was 2.

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 11

It was a few weeks later. Classes had ended and Maite had done well in her thermodynamics class, well enough that her professor asked to meet after the final class. She followed him to his office.

Professor Gorostiaga was an elderly man who had been teaching at the University for decades. Maite didn’t know much about his research, but she knew he had done some important work on the properties of quantum materials. He opened the door and, weaving through stacks of books and papers, found his way to his desk. As he sat down, he motioned for Maite to sit.

“Maite,” he began, “you are one of the best students I’ve seen come through the department. You work hard, you have a deep understanding of the material and, most importantly, you are creative in your approach. Have you given much thought about graduate school?”

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“To be honest, Professor Gorostiaga,” replied Maite, “I applied to a few programs, mostly in the United States. One has tentatively offered me a spot, depending on how an interview goes. I still need to arrange a visit to the campus for the interview.”

“Ah, it would be a shame to lose you. The Basque Country could certainly use someone with your talent.”

“I wouldn’t be gone forever, just graduate school. I’d come back.”

“I would hope so,” replied Professor Gorostiaga. “But, that’s what we all think. When I was a student, there was a woman in my class, Bego. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. We spent almost every waking moment together, in class of course, but also working through problem sets and studying for exams. She was so smart, and so beautiful. I was sure she was the one…” He trailed off.

Maite looked around, unsure of what to say or do. The awkwardness grew as Professor Gorostiaga stared past her, seemingly unaware that she was still there.

After a few moments, Maite ventured a tentative “Jauna? Sir?”

Professor Gorostiaga gave a small jolt, his eyes snapping back into focus. “What? Oh, yes. I was talking about Bego. Anyways,” he continued, “she applied and got accepted into one of the best graduate programs in the United States, at Berkeley. I graduated a semester later than she did. I applied too and even got accepted.” He sighed. “I never was quite as adventurous as Bego. As she started her research at Berkeley and wrote to me about it, I could tell she was moving on. That we were losing that special connection we once shared. I decided to stay here, in the Basque Country, where I was more comfortable.

“The point being,” he continued, sitting up straighter, “is that Bego had originally intended to return too. But, after finishing graduate school, she got a postdoc at one of their national labs, fell in love, and eventually became a professor at one of their universities. She never came Just be back, except for the occasional visit here and there.”

His gaze settled on her again. “You never know what life has in store for us. Just be sure to think about the ramifications of your choices.”

Basque Fact of the Week: Basque Radical Rock

Basque festivals, at least in the United States, are characterized by the sounds of folk music: the accordion, the tambourine, and sometimes the txistu. These are core elements of Basque culture and identity. However, in the Basque Country, there co-exists a very different flavor of music, with electric guitars, throbbing bass, and aggressive lyrics. Born from the “new Basque songs” of the pop-rock wave of the 60s and the death of Franco, Basque radical rock gave voice to a whole new generation.

Poster announcing a concert in homage to Negu Gorriak, from
  • During the 1960s, a new wave of Basque musicians entered the scene, inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, Atahualpa Yupanqui, and Elvis Presley. Musicians like Mikel Laboa, Benito Lertxundi, Xabier Lete, and Lurdes Iriondo brought that pop-rock sensibility to the Basque Country, melding lyrics in Basque with new international sounds.
  • However, there was still a traditional connection, a sense of the folkloric in their music. The 1970s served as a bridge, exploring new music combinations, with groups such as Oskorri combining traditional Basque sounds with pop and jazz. Harder, punk sounds were also coming to the fore, with bands like Eskorbuto and Tensión developing the sounds of Basque protopunk.
  • It wasn’t until the 1980s, after the death of Franco, that the rebellious and loud sounds of genres like punk and hard rock and heavy metal hit the shores of the Basque Country, but when it did, it hit hard (no pun intended). New groups — including Hertzainak, Kortatu, and Barricada — spoke directly to the system, to societal norms, with very specific messages, often political in nature. This movement was christened “Basque Radical Rock” and was supported by a throng of fanzines and free radio stations.
  • Soon, sounds split and diversified, with more subgenres of music finding reach throughout the region. From the ashes of Kortatu arose Negu Gorriak, who had a large discography, produced many videos, and had some large international concerts. Sounds varied by region, as the more industrial environs of Bilbao led to a harder sound than typical elsewhere. The first true Basque heavy metal bands, Su ta Gar and EH Sukarra, came out of Eibar, in Gipuzkoa, but heavy metal subsequently sprouted in other parts of Euskal Herria, with bands such as Berri Txarrak in Nafarroa.
  • Today, the Basque music scene is extremely diverse, with the more traditional sounds of trikitixa and txalaparta mixing with reggae and ska. Jazz has always had an important place, as evidenced by the 55th edition of the Donostiako Jazzaldia.

Primary source: Zaratiegi Armendariz, Iñaki. Pop-Rock en Euskal Herria. Enciclopedia Auñamendi, 2020. Available at:

Excellent Resources from the Basque Museum

Did you know that the Basque Museum and Cultural Center had so many online resources? If you are interested in pursuing your genealogy, looking at the history of Basques in Boise and America more broadly, or wanting to learn a bit more about Basque culture, the Basque Museum has you covered. Taken from their most recent newsletter (if you don’t get their newsletter, you can subscribe on their website), and posted with permission (mil esker Annie Gavica!), here are some great resources to keep you busy when you would have otherwise been dancing, singing, and drinking in the streets during Jaialdi!

Online Collections & Joseph V. Eiguren Memorial Library: The entirety of the Joseph V. Eiguren Memorial Library can be browsed online along with a sampling of our collections, simply click and browse!

From Euzkadi to Idaho: Bonifacio Garmendia Collection: A collection of photographs that once hung in the Boise Basque Center, the Garmendia collection features photographs of immigrant men that Garmendia helped settle in America.

La Historia de los Vascongados en el Oeste (History of Basques in the West): Published in 1917, History of Basques in the West, includes the histories of many Basques families in the Amer- ican West. This book is great starting point in researching Basque family history and is available on our website in both Spanish and English. vascongados-en-el-oste/

Obituary Database: The BMCC is home to various collections, including a robust collection of Basque obituaries. These obituaries are valuable in research for exhibits and our work, but they are also key
to creating family histories. obituaries/

Oral Histories: Our website also features a database of oral histories that include interview summaries and audio clips. These are another valuable resources to anyone doing research.

Basque Musicians in the West: In 2016, BMCC intern, Eneko Tuduri, created a new database on our website for researchers and the general public: Basque Musicians in the West. This database contains information on the many talented Basque musicians and music groups in the American West. When possible, audio clips were added to the database, creating an immersive and fun experi- ence to explore.

Ahaztu Barik Cemetery Project: Spearheaded by Liz Hardesty, the Ahaztu Barik Cemetery Project focuses on Boise’s Morris Hill Cemetery. The project identified 60 burials of unknown Basques and 60 more names of Basques who are buried in unknown locations at the cemetery. View this fascinating project on our website:

Virtual Learning Resources: Here you can find all supplemental materials for the Activity Workbook, videos, online learning games, and printable activity sheets. Updated often, so always check back!

Live Basque Radio: Missing a taste of the Old Country? Check out this page to stream live radio from the Basque Country in real time.

Online Presentations: Check the events calendar to register for online presentations hosted through ZOOM. Topics range from historical lectures, workshops, to discussions on modern Basque culture.

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 10

Maite was already up and sitting at the kitchen table, getting an early start on her next homework assignment, when she heard the door to the living room open, her ama entering the room. “Egun on,” said Maite as she looked up from the notebook and equations in front of her.

“Egon on, Maite,” replied her mother as she made her way past the couch and TV stand and into the kitchen. As she opened a cupboard to pull out a saucepan and a small French press, she gave a small shake of her head. “You work too hard.”

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Maite smiled. “No harder than you and aita did.”

Her ama sighed. “And look at us now, old and frail. This isn’t the life we wanted for you.”

Maite put her pencil down and stood up. Taking her mother’s hands in her own, she looked into the face that had always been there to comfort her when she was sick, to listen to her stories about the boy down the road, to fly with her in her dreams. “You gave me the best gift any parents ever could, opportunity. Because you worked so hard and sacrificed so much, I now have the chance to follow my own dreams, to follow my own heart, to be the best I can be. If I work hard, it is out of choice, not out of necessity. And I have that choice because of you and aita.”

She watched as a tear trickled down her ama’s cheek. Her ama pulled her into a big hug. “Maite zaitut, Maite.”

“Nik ere maite zaitut,” replied Maite.

Her ama, her cheeks wet with tears, broke the embrace and smiled at her daughter. “At least, let me make you some coffee and breakfast while you work.” 

Maite smiled as her ama turned toward the stove and she returned to her notebook. But, instead of on her homework, her mind focused on the swirling whisk in the saucepan as her ama heated the milk. She felt like a little girl again, watching her ama in the kitchen of the bar where she had seemingly prepared a million different dishes at the same time, juggling pots and pans, glasses and dishes, as she had readied for the day’s patrons. Her parents had never had a lot of free time to play, to spend with her, to do all of the things she saw her friends doing with their parents, but she had always known that everything they did they had done for her. And she loved them for it.

Maite turned back to her homework, sighing, and smiling, as she took pencil to paper and continued working on solving the equation for temperature.

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