Fighting Basques: The Seven Basques of the Alamo of the Pacific. The Battle of Wake, 1941 (Part I of II)

This article original appeared in Spanish at

By Pedro J. Oiarzabal and Guillermo Tabernilla

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888).

Operation Rainbow 5

Pedro J. Oiarzabal and Guillermo Tabernilla are the principal investigators of the research project “Fighting Basques: Basque Memory of World War II” of the Sancho de Beurko Elkartea in collaboration with the North American Basque Organizations (NABO). The present article derives from the “Fighting Basques” project.

Oiarzabal received his Doctorate of Political Science-Basque Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno. Over the last 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 a member of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

Tabernilla is a researcher and founder of the Sancho de Beurko Elkartea, a non-profit organization that studies the history of the Basques of both slopes of the Pyrenees in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. Between 2008 and 2016 he directed the catalog of the “Iron Belt” for the Heritage Directorate of the Basque Government. He is author, along with Ander González, of Basque Fighters in World War II (Desperta Ferro, 2018).

The escalation of tensions between Japan and the United States during the 1930s focused attention on the Pacific Ocean, primarily on the weak defense of the Hawaiian Islands against a potential enemy attack. The US government designed “Operation Rainbow 5” with the objective of defending the west and southwestern flank of Hawaii, through the construction of military bases on five islands: Wake, Midway, Johnston, Palmyra, and Samoa. However, the plan came too late.

In January 1941, a consortium of civilian firms called the Pacific Naval Air Base Contractors began construction of US military installations on Wake Island. Located in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, Wake, with two small islets (Peale and Wilkes), is considered one of the most isolated islands in the world. It is located 3,700 km (2,300 miles) west of Honolulu, Hawaii, and about 3,200 km (1988 miles) from Tokyo, Japan. It was formally claimed by the US in 1899 as a strategic atoll (uninhabited at the time) for maritime, military, and merchant refueling.

Geographic location of the Coral Island Wake, between the Philippine and Hawaiian archipelago.

One of the primary construction companies, if not the most important one, in Wake was the Morrison-Knudsen Civil Engineering Company, based in the then small town of Boise, Idaho. At the time, Boise had about 26,000 inhabitants and a significant population of Basque origin, which had been growing since the last third of the 19th century. In August 1941, the first military garrison was permanently established on the island, consisting of 399 Marines from the 1st Defense Battalion, 50 from the Marine Corps Combat Squad (VMF-211), 68 from the Navy, and 5 from the Army.

From left to right, the group of childhood friends, Murray Kidd, George Rosandick, Joseph Goicoechea,
and Richard Pagoaga. (Courtesy of the Pagoaga family).

By December, the consortium had more than 1,100 construction workers in Wake. About 230 came from Idaho. Among them were seven young Basque-Americans: George Joseph Acordagoitia, Ignacio Frank Arambarri, Joseph Goicoechea, Angel Madarieta, Joseph Mendiola, Richard Joseph Pagoaga, and Robert Lemoyne Yriberry. All of them had parents from Bizkaia, with the exception of Pagoaga, whose father was Gipuzkoan and whose mother was born in Boise (herself of Bizkaian parents), and Yriberry, whose father was from Lapurdi and whose mother was American. The Basque parents had arrived in the country between 1899 and 1920, although most had done so during the first decade of the 20th century. For their children, the $120 a month plus room and board offered to go to Wake were more than attractive incentives for younger workers. At that time, good jobs were scarce; add to that their desire for adventure and to know the world, and the opportunity was irresistible. “For young people, it was paradise,” recalled Joseph Goicoechea Zatica [1]. Born in Jordan Valley, Oregon, in 1921, he was 20 years old at the time. Goicoechea, with a group of his best friends including George Rosandick, Murray Kidd, and Richard Pagoaga Yribar who was born in Boise in 1922, decided to try their luck and apply for the job for Wake, an island they had never heard of before, as they would confess years later. At 19, Pagoaga was the youngest of Wake’s Basque-Americans. Soon that paradise turned into a nightmare.

The Battle of Wake

The Empire of the Rising Sun launched a simultaneous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (on December 7), and the then almost unknown Wake, during noon local time on December 8 (note that Wake is west of the International Date Line). Pearl Harbor had been attacked five hours before Wake. The Japanese bombers came from the Kwajalein bases in the Marshall Islands. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the trigger that caused the US to enter fully into World War II.

Situation of the North American defenses on Wake Island before the Japanese invasion.

After the first air raids, more than 185 workers volunteered to fight alongside the Marines, and about 250 other workers helped them with other tasks. Goicoechea was recruited in the heat of battle. He had military training and experience. He had participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and, being a minor at 17 years old, after forging his father’s signature he enlisted in the 116th Cavalry Company of the Idaho National Guard. Goicoechea was seriously wounded in the first Japanese attacks. Even so, he continued to help the Marines constantly move artillery pieces to avoid being hit by shelling. He was only 20 years old. “I was frightened; you never get over it […] The first night was the worst night in my life. I was shaking and didn´t know what the heck was happening. You could see the older men were just as scared as you were. I used to hear a lot of guys pray,” Goicoechea would recall years later [2].

The oldest of Wake’s Basque-Americans, Robert Yriberry Howard was not so lucky. Born in Council, Idaho, in 1914, he dedicated his life to construction. From 1937 he worked in Honolulu for the Remington Rand Company, later transferring to the Pacific Naval Air Base Contractors consortium. Yriberry was the first Basque to arrive on the island, in October 1940. He was the “valuable” secretary of Morrison-Knudsen’s general superintendent, Nathan Daniel Teters, in charge of the Wake workers, who would also be captured like the rest of the island’s inhabitants. Yriberry died on December 9, 1941, at the age of 27, during an air raid that deliberately destroyed the hospital where he was staying, having “received shrapnel wounds in the first attack” [3]. Yriberry is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu. He is probably one of the first, if not the first, Basque-American fatality (either civilian or military) of World War II.

News of Robert Yriberry’s death did not break until a month and a half after the fact. Although the local press estimated his death on December 24, it occurred on the 9th according to witnesses (Spokane Chronicle. Spokane, Washington, January 23, 1942. P. 15).

The first invasion attempt by Japanese troops occurred on December 11, though it was successfully repelled by the few American forces. It was the first amphibious attack on a territory under US control during WWII. The first such attack on US territory would take place in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska six months later, and in which there was significant Basque-American participation.

Meanwhile, between December 8 and 10, Japan had occupied the Philippines, Guam, and the Gilbert Islands, taking 400 construction workers on Guam prisoner. Operation Rainbow 5 had failed. Among those captured in Guam was the Bishop of the Capuchin Order of Nafarroa, Miguel Ángel Urteaga Olano – “León de Alzo” – head of the Catholic Church on the island since 1934. Born on September 29, 1891 in Altzo, Gipuzkoa, he had arrived on Guam in 1918. Like the rest of the prisoners, he was sent to Japan on January 10, 1942. However, he was released under the protection of the Government of Spain and resided first with the Spanish Jesuits in Tokyo and later traveled to Goa and Bombay, returning to Guam, after its liberation, on March 21, 1945. Sent to Manila, he retired in 1960 in San Sebastián-Donostia. He passed away on May 21, 1970, during his last visit to Guam, where he was buried [4].

The next landing at Wake was on December 23, and it was impossible to stop it. Wake was cut off by air and sea and was unable to receive soldiers or supplies to repel the invasion. The defenders, under the command of Major James Patrick Sinnot Devereaux, eventually capitulated and the island was occupied. An epic new chapter in American history had been written, the defenders even being compared to those who held out to the end at the Alamo [5]. Unlike the battle in Texas, 105 years earlier, there were survivors, but as we will see, their destinations would become a true purgatory. In the face of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the defense of Wake was an injection of morale for the despondent American society. It became the first military setback for the Imperial Japanese Navy in whose plans the capture of a small atoll in the middle of the Pacific should not have proven to be any problem. Quickly, the Hollywood film machine went to work on what would become the first WWII combat film by Paramount, with a clear propagandist profile. On August 11, 1942, director John Farrow‘s Wake Island opened at the Marine Corps base in San Diego, California. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the survivors of the Battle of Wake remained unknown to the general public.

Advertising poster for the movie Wake Island, under the motto “America will never forget.” This film started a whole cinematographic genre that combined warfare and propaganda as a political weapon.

The Japanese had lost some 1,000 soldiers in combat, and more than 300 were wounded. The defenders lost a hundred soldiers and civilians, including Americans and Guamanians – workers for the Pan American Airways company, which had built a small town with a hotel. The Japanese subsequently garrisoned more than 4,000 soldiers on the island and erected large fortifications to protect them from any retaliation for the occupation.

All but 98 skilled workers were evacuated from Wake. These 98 remained on the island to operate the necessary machinery in their eagerness to fortify it. However, the American response was not to recover the island, but rather to block it, causing a lack of supplies and starvation among the Japanese troops. Beginning in February 1942, constant and intense air and sea bombardments, the first and most important in the Pacific War, were added to the American effort. Between October 5 and 7, 1943, the Japanese bases at Wake were totally destroyed by the largest concentration of American aircraft carriers in the history of naval warfare. Aviation Lieutenant Pablo “Paul” Bilbao Bengoechea, born in 1917 in Boise to Bizkaian parents, was on board the USS Lexington, one of the aircraft carriers participating in the attack. The military onslaught had unforeseeable consequences. Faced with what the Japanese thought was an imminent invasion, they executed the 98 Americans on the 7th.

To be continued…


[1] Garber, Virginia S. “Survivors remember Wake Island”. The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho, September 17, 1995, page 9).

[2] Cited in Wukovits, John (2003). Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island. New Amer Library.

[3] Gilbert, Bonita. (2012). Building for War: The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in World War II. Casemate Editor. Page 215.

[4] Sinajaña, Eric (2001). Historia de la Misión de Guam de los Capuchinos Españoles.Pamplona: Curia Provincial de Capuchinos.

[5] See, for example, Wukovits, John (2003). Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island. New Amer Library.

Basque Fact of the Week: The Early History of Iruña/Pamplona

The capital of Nafarroa Iruña, or Pamplona, is most famous for the running of the bulls. I had the interesting pleasure of attending the running, watching from the safe vantage point of a balcony. But, the city boasts a history of more than 2000 years and is first mentioned by the Romans. The importance of the city and the province to Basque history cannot be overstated. It was also a nexus of cultural intersection, with the Romans, the Arabs, the French, and the Castilians all vying for control at various points in history. But, at its heart, it has always been Basque.

A view of Iruña/Pamplona. Photo from
  • Iruña was first mentioned in ancient Roman texts. Roman geographer Strabo described a city between the Ebro river and the Pyrenees called Pompelon, the city of Pompey. Similarly, Ptolemy refers to Pompelon as one of the fifteen Basque towns. Clearly Pamplona was named after the Roman general Pompey, a result of his stay in the area in the winter of 75-74 BCE during his war against against Sertorius. However, the Basque version, Iruña, arises from the fact that this was a (perhaps the) major city for the Vascones. In Basque, Iruña means the city. The historic importance of the city and the region is reflected in the recent discovery of the Hand of Irulegi.
  • The medieval city was built upon the foundations of the Roman city before it, and even a pre-Roman settlement before that. Because the modern city lies atop these, it is challenging to conduct detailed archeological studies.
  • Iruña was at the heart of many conflicts between different tribes and kingdoms of Europe, including the Germans/Suebi, the Visigoths, and the Franks. The Visigoths conquered the city and the region during 466 to 472 and again, this time led by Liuvigild, in 581. In between, in 541, the Franks raided and took control of the city. Several times the city was ransacked and destroyed, only to be rebuilt. However, the local Vascones – the Basques – were on the outside looking in, trying multiple times to retake the city. One occupying monk described the city as enviable and always victorious city, it is surrounded by mountains and by “barbarous and enemy people,” against whom it is necessary to wage war without compassion. The Basques constantly fought against these invading peoples.
  • In 711, the Umayyads, Muslim Arabs, began their conquest of Hispania, reaching Iruña a few years later. The city brokered a treaty and was subsequently ruled by the Arabs. The Banu Qasi dynasty including several Muslims that were of Basque decent. Abd al-Rahman al Gafequi made his headquarters in Iruña as he tried to further his invasion north. There were many intermarriages. For example, the widow of Eneko Jiménez and mother of Eneko Arista, considered the first king of Pamplona, joined Musa ben Fortún. They had a son – the great Musa ben Musa, brother of Eneko. Their marriage also coincided with Charlemagne‘s creation of the Kingdom of Aquitaine as a counterpoint to the Basques.
  • The Arabs ruled the region until 755 when Yusuf al Fihri, the last governor of Al-Andalus, tried to quash Basque unrest and was defeated. In 778, Charlemagne moved south, trying to reconquer some of the Muslim-controlled lands. He tried to take Zaragoza but was repelled. In his retreat, he destroyed the walls of Iruña. In his retreat over the Pyrenees, the Basques exacted their revenge, as immortalized in the Song of Roland.
  • The Kingdom of Pamplona, first led by Eneko Arista, was created sometime around 824. During this time, Iruña struggled. Its people were described by Muslim chroniclers as poor, malnourished, and dedicated to banditry. They supposedly spoke Basque, which “makes them incomprehensible.” In 905, Sancho I became king of Pamplona, ushering a new age.

Primary sources: Auñamendi Entziklopedia. Pamplona / Iruña. Historia. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Pamplona, Wikipedia

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 155

Maite looked up and around the structure of the fort standing in front of her. It was mostly built from stone, with the massive door made of wood. There wasn’t anything to really conduct electricity, to let her use her powers to attack the structure. She started circling the fort, looking for any weakness, any place where she might be able to enter. She didn’t need much, just some metal support or…

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa 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!

That! On the side of the building, seemingly jammed between two stones, a metal rod protuded. She didn’t know if it was meant to add support to the structure or what, and she didn’t care. She grabbed the rod, sending pulses of electricity into it. It started heating, glowing red hot. Maite then let go and let it cool. She did this several times, over and over, letting it heat and then cool. The constant cycling, the constant expansion and then contraction of the metal put strain on the surrounding stone. At first, little happened, but then Maite began to hear the popping of the stone cracking. Flakes started falling to the ground. Soon the masonry also began to fall away. And, with one loud crack that sounded almost like a gunshot, one of the big stones cracked in half. 

Maite pulled the now loose rod from the structure and used it to pry the loose stones from the wall. In the end, only a few of the massive stones were loose enough to extract, but once she was done Maite had created a hole just large enough for her to squeeze through. The jagged stone caught her dress, ripping the skirt to shreds, and cut up her arms and legs. She barely noticed. When she stood up on the other side, she looked like a visage from a horror movie, blood flowing down her bare arms and legs, her hair a wild mess, and electricity sparking in her eyes.

“I am notably impressed,” rumbled Garuna.

“Isilik, I said,” she responded in a hiss.

Inside the walls, she found herself in front of a central building where she assumed the soldiers bunkered and ate. The walls themselves had a walkway and stations for soldiers, for the moment empty. She had expected a large contingent of soldiers waiting for her, expected to see a multitude of rifles aimed at her heart, but there was no one there.

She mentally shrugged and turned her attention to the central building. If there were any soldiers in the fort, they must be there. But, so was the zatia. She could feel it now, pulling like a magnet. 

Another set of wooden doors, much less impressive than those that formed the gate to the fort, separated her from the zatia. As she pulled them open, she saw a contingent of soldiers, surrounding what she thought must be their commander in two rows, one kneeling and another standing behind and over the first. All had their muskets aimed at the door. She heard a shout as the air filled with the acrid smell of burnt gun powder and the bangs of gun shots.

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Basque Fact of the Week: Sounds in Euskara

One day, we were all sitting around the table listening to stories from dad. I’m not quite sure how it came up, but he made a sound of a rooster. Instead of our cock-a-doodle-doo, his rooster said kee-keeree-kee-keeree-coo. His rooster spoke Euskara instead of English! I guess it should have been obvious that animal sounds were different in different languages, but I had never really thought about it. So, it is pretty convenient that has a long list of sounds that not only animals but other things “say” in Euskara. Here, I’ve added translations to English. Some of these ideophones I’ve written about before, but this adds to that list.

Some animal sounds in Euskara. Image from Elinberri, who also have a list of onomatopoeias in Euskara.
  • abere larriak (large animals). Marruma, makakorro.
  • ahatea (duck). Kua-kua.
  • ahotik ahora ibiltzea (babbling). Bala-bala, bolo-bolo.
  • ahuntza (goat). Bekereke, bee, marraka.
  • aizkora kolpeak (blows of an axe). Kiski-kaska.
  • amiamokoa (stork). Klaka.
  • antzara (goose). Karranka, karran-karran.
  • apoa (toad). Klik-klok, kluk-kluk, klin-klon.
  • ardia (sheep). Balaka, bee, beeka, marraka, mee.
  • argazki kamera (camera). Klisk.
  • arrautza haustea (cracking an egg). Klask.
  • astoa (donkey). Aaaaa, aja-ja, arran-arran, arrantza, arrantzaka, zinka.
  • ate joka (knock on a door). Kas-kas, kask, kask-kask, kax-kax, dan-dan, pan-pan.
  • azeria (fox). Zaunka, xanpa.
  • balantzaka (balancing/stumbling). Binbili-bonbolo, binbilin-bolon, dinbili-danbala, pinpili-panpala, zinbulu-zanbulu.
  • barrea (laughing). Iji, iji-aja, iji eta aja, ijiji, kar-kar(-kar), kur-kur(-kur), ajaja, ja.
  • barre ironikoa (ironic laugh). Ja-jai.
  • bat-batean (suddenly). Di-da, brau, dzast, zart, rau, zapla, banpez, klak, krak, krask, krik, krik-krak, tak.
  • bat-batean bururaturiko ideia (a sudden idea). Dapa.
  • behia, zezena, idia (cow, bull, ox). Mu, marru, orro, marru-marru, marru egin, marruka aritu, marruma, murrusa, murrusaka, mu eta mu.
  • behorra eta zaldia (mare and horse). Irrintzia, ijijiji.
  • belea eta gisako hegaztiak (crow and other birds). Karra-karra, karranka, kras-kras, kua-kua.
  • bihotza (heart). Taup, taup-taup, taupa-taupa, tak, tak-tak, pil-pil.
  • bizkor (quick/fast). Zirt-zart, sast, rau, rast, brast, brasta-brasta, bristi-brasta, brixt, zizt.
  • bizkor emaniko kolpeak (quick blows). Zirti-zarta.
  • bozgorailuaren zarata ulertezina (incomprehensible speaker noise). Kirrink eta karrask.
  • danborra (drum). Dan-dan, ranplanplan, rapetaplan, rataplan.
  • desgogara egotea (being upset). Uf, ufa, puf.
  • dirua (coins). Txin-txin.
  • distira (shine). Brixt, bris-bris, brist-brist, briz-briz, dir-dir, diz-diz, klisk.
  • doministikua (sneezing). Atxi, hatxiu, atrux, atruxka, antuxa, atxus, atxuska, atxis, atxix.
  • ebakitzea (cutting). Zarrats, ritx.
  • edaria zerbitzatzea (serving a drink). Glin-glan.
  • edatea (drinking). Danga-danga, glu-glu, klu-klu, zanga, zanga-zanga, zurrut, zurrust, hurrup, klik.
  • ekaitza (storm). Burrunba.
  • elurra (snow). Mara-mara, tapa-tapa.
  • eperra (partridge). Txor-txor.
  • erlea (bee). Burrunba, brun-brun, zunburrun.
  • erlojua (clock). Tak, tak-tak, tiki-taka.
  • erortzea [lurrera, uretara…] (falling, to the ground or water…). Plaust, plausta, blast, plast, plasta, plasta-plasta, plost, patapun, patapau, punpa, punba.
  • errota (mill). Tiki-taka.
  • esertzea (sitting down). Aapa.
  • eskinosoa (jay). Karra-karra.
  • eulia (fly). Burrunba, brun-brun, zunburrun.
  • euri handia, zaparradarik gabe (heavy rain, not a shower). Zara-zara, zarra-zarra.
  • eurixka (rain). Ziri-ziri, ziri-miri.
  • euri zaparrada (heavy rain). Zapar-zapar.
  • ezkila, kanpaia (bell). Dilin-dalan, dan-dan, danbada, danga, danga-danga, din-dan, binbili-banbala, durundi, dinbili-danbala, dinbilin-danbalan, tanga, tilin, tilin-talan, tilin-tilin.
  • ezpatak (clashing swords). Klix-klax, zirti-zarta.
  • eztanda (explosion). Danba, pun, zart, pan.
  • eztula (cough). Tuju-tuju, eju eta eju.
  • ezustea (unexpected). Sast.
  • flasha (flash). Brixt, brist.
  • gaztainak, erre bitartean (chestnuts while roasting). Zirt-zart.
  • guraizea (scissors). Klix-klax, kras-kras.
  • gurdia (a cart). Karranka.
  • haizea (wind). Fiu, ulu, zurrumurru, pir-pir.
  • haize leuna (gentle breeze). Firi-fara.
  • hara eta hona (back and forth). Tilin-talan, firin-faran.
  • harridura (surprise). Atx.
  • haustea (breaking). Klak, klask, krak, krak egin, krik-krak, krik-krok, zart.
  • hegalen mugimendua (flapping wings). Fla-fla-fla, xapla-xapla.
  • hiltzea (dying). Pot.
  • hizketa etengabea (continuous talk). Txor-txor, tur-tur-tur, tar-tar-tar, bar-bar, bala-bala, tel-tel, tili-pala-tili-pala, txau-txau-txau, ttor-ttor, mar-mar.
  • hontza (owl). Uhuri, ujuju, ulu.
  • hortzak (teeth (gnashing)). Kras-kras, klak.
  • hostoak (leaves (rustling)). Pir-pir, fir-fir.
  • hozka (biting). Klak, klask, kosk.
  • hozka oldartzea (biting attack). Gliski-glaska.
  • ibaia (river (murmuring)). Gur-gur, gur-gur egin, zurrumurru, xurru-xurru, xur-xur.
  • igela (frog). Karra-karra-karra, kroak, kroaka, kro-kro, krak.
  • igurztea (rubbing). Arrast, zirri-zarra.
  • ilea moztea (cutting hair). Gliski-glaska, klik-klik.
  • indioilarra (turkey). Glu-glu, glu-glu egin, kur-kur.
  • irakitea (boiling). Bar-bar, bor-bor, bur-bur, gal-gal.
  • irenstea (swallowing). Klak, klik, klik eta klak, klik eta klik, hurrup eta klik.
  • irristatzea (sliding). Irrist, laprast.
  • itsasoa (the sea). Burrunba.
  • jatea (eating). Mau-mau, mauka-mauka, naka-naka, kaska-kaska, klak, klaka-klaka, mauska-mauska, mausta-mausta, ñan-ñan.
  • jatean nahikoa egin (eating enough). Glok, glok egin.
  • joarea (cowbell). Bulun-bulun(-bulun), dilin-dalan, dulun, dulun-dulun, tulun, tulun-tulun.
  • joka (hitting). Danba-danba, danga, di-da.
  • kanoia (cannon). Danbada, dunbada.
  • karraska (grinding teeth). Kris-kras.
  • Kate txikia (small chain). Txilin.
  • katua (cat). Miau, marrau, miauka aritu, miau egin, marraka egin, marrakatu, ñau, ñauz, ñauka.
  • kazkabarra (hail). Zirti-zarta, kiski-kaska.
  • kilima (tickling). Kili-kili.
  • kilkerra (cricket). Kir-kir, kri-kri, xirri-xirri.
  • kolpe handia (big blow/hit). Banba, danba, danbada, danbateko, panp, panpa, pun, kanka, plaust.
  • kolpe segida (consecutive blows). Kisk eta kask, kisk-kask, kiski-kaska, binba-banba, dinbi-danba, panpa-panpa, pinpi-panpa, siki-saka, tiki-taka, tiliki-talaka.
  • kolpe txikia (small blow/hit). Kask-kask, tak, tok, tak-tak, tok-tok.
  • korroka (fighting). Korrok.
  • kukua (cuckoo). Kuku.
  • labana sartzea (inserting a knife). Sasta.
  • lehoia (lion). Marruma.
  • likido bat isurtzea (spilling a liquid). Parrast.
  • liztorra (wasp). Burrunba.
  • mailua (hammering). Danbateko, panpa-panpa, taun-taun, taunk, tiriki-tauki.
  • makilaren mugimendua (waving a stick). Firrinda, zirt-zart, zirt eta zart.
  • makina (machine). Tiki-taka, fra-fra.
  • marmarra (murmur). Mar-mar-mar, mur-mur-mur.
  • masailekoa (of the cheek). Plisti-plasta, zapla, dabla, dibli-dabla, da-da, pla, pla-pla-pla.
  • mastekatzea (chewing). Kaska-kaska.
  • metala (metal). Txin-txin.
  • metrailadorea (machine gun). Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta.
  • mina (pain). Otx, atx, ai, aiena, aienatxo.
  • mozolo (old man). Oihu, ujuju, uuu eta aaa.
  • moztea (cutting). Krask.
  • nekea (tiredness). Ufa.
  • oihua (crying). Uu, uuuu.
  • oilarra (rooster). Kukurruku, kukurrukuka.
  • oiloa (chicken). Karaka, karaka egin, kakaraka aritu, kiriki eta karaka.
  • oinez (footsteps). Taka-taka, tiki-taka, tipi-tapa, tapa-tapa.
  • olatuak (waves). Furrust-farrast.
  • ongi izatea (being good). Aufa, aufi.
  • otsoa (wolf). Alarau, ulu, ulu-ulu, hauma, uhuri.
  • pipan erretzea (smoking a pipe). Pafa-pafa, pauta-pauta.
  • putz egitea (blowing). Fu.
  • puzkerra (puffing). Turrut, puzzz, tirri eta tarra.
  • sabela (belly). Gur-gur, gur-gur egin, kurrinka, glu-glu.
  • sastada (stabbed). Sast, zazt.
  • satorra (mole). Siu-siu.
  • sehaska (cradle). Klun-klan, kun-kun.
  • sokaren mugimendua (wave a rope). Firrinda.
  • sugea (snake). Txistu.
  • talka (crashing). Klak, klask, plaust.
  • telefonoa (telephone). Tirrin-tirrin.
  • telefono dei etena (dropped phone call). Pu-pu-pu-pu.
  • tiroa (shot, shooting). Banba, danba, dzast, sast, pan, bunba, bunbada, pinpi-panpa.
  • topa egitea (making a toast). Glin-glin-glin.
  • trago batean edalontzia hustea (chugging). Hikilimikiklik, hilimiliklik.
  • trakets jatea (clumsy/messy eating). Klika-klaka.
  • trena (train). Trakatan-trakatan, tipirri-taparra, trinkili-trankala, trinkili eta trankala.
  • trosta (trotting). Draka-draka-draka, patapa-patapa, trakatan, traka-traka.
  • trumoia (thunder). Burrun, burrunba, danbateko, orro.
  • txakurkumea (puppy). Ttau-ttau.
  • txakurra (dog). Au, au-au, ttau-ttau, zaunk-zaunk, zaunka, ulu, hauma.
  • txakurra jatean (dog eating). Lapa-lapa, glaska-glaska.
  • txerria, basurdea eta gisakoak (pig, wild boar, and the like). Kurrin, kurrin-kurrin, kurrinka, zurrunga.
  • txilina (handbell). Tilin, tilin-tilin.
  • tximeleta (butterfly). Ziru-zira.
  • txinparta (spark). Zirt-zart, kriski-kraska.
  • txirrina (bell). Tirrin, tirrin-tirrin, tilin-tilin.
  • txistua (whistling). Fiu, uuii.
  • txita (chick). Txio-txio, txioka.
  • txoria (bird). Txio, txorrotxio, txio-txio, txioka.
  • unea (action). Xixt.
  • uretan ibiltzea (walking in the water). Plisti-plasta.
  • uretan murgiltzea (immerse in water, dunk). Plunp, pluf.
  • urrats geldoan (slow steps). Tirriki-tarraka, tirrist-tarrast, tirristi-tarrasta, tuku-tuku, xirri-xarra.
  • urratzea (tearing). Tarrat, zarrat.
  • usoa (pigeon). Urruma, kurruka.
  • xurxula (whispering). Pir-pir.
  • zakar (strong wind???). Rau, briu-brau.
  • zapoa (toad). Klok-klok, klonk-klonk.
  • zarata handia (loud noise). Birrinbi-barranba.
  • zerbait gogor irenstea (swallowing something hard). Klik.
  • zerbait pixkanaka egitea (doing something gradually). Txiri-txiri.
  • zerra (sawing). Sirrin-sarran, zarra-zarra.
  • zigor ukaldia (whipping). Zirt-zart, zirt eta zart.
  • zintzarria (cowbell). Bulun-bulun(-bulun), dilin-dalan, dulun, dulun-dulun, tulun, tulun-tulun.
  • ziztada (puncturing). Sast, zazt, zizt, zizta, zizt-zazt, zizti-zazta, txixt, sist eta sast, dzast.
  • zozoa (blackbird). Zorzor.
  • zurrumurrua (whispering). Bru-bru.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 154

Maite turned back to the bay. The large ships sat quite, rocking almost peacefully, belying the threat they posed for the city and the inhabitants. Maite shook her head. She was sick of the death and destruction that seemed to follow her at every turn, that seemed to be at the heart of every bubble she had visited so far. Did the zatiak seek out these times of conflict or was it that humans were always at conflict and it didn’t matter where the zatiak went? 

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa 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!

“Humans are always at conflict,” murmured Garuna in the back of her mind. “The only solution is forced compliance, for a superior being to guide the flock, to keep it in line.”

“And I assume you are that superior being?” asked Maite, rhetorically.

Not catching the irony, Garuna replied “Of course.”

“I assume the whole reason you wanted to come with me is to reestablish yourself, to find a way to resume power again. Is that not right?”

Garuna was silent for a moment. “You are too clever,” it eventually replied. “Yes, that is my goal.”

Maite nodded to herself. “And you think the zatiak are a path to that power?”

“I do not know what the zatiak are, but I do expect they can help me achieve my goals.”

Maite sighed. “And then what? Subjugation of humans? Making us do what you think is best?”

“Isn’t what I think is best better than what you have all been doing?”

Maite fell silent. She hated that Garuna might be right, that humans might be better off with an all powerful, but benevolent, dictator. The thought made her stomach churn, but how could she argue that humans had done a good job of things so far? Thinking of Kepa’s body laying in that street, she couldn’t.

“Kepa. That’s all that’s important,” she thought to herself. “Damn the rest.”

The fort stood in front of her. She could feel the pull of the zatia from within. She knelt down and placed her palms on the ground in front of her. Small bolts of electricity snaked from her fingertips and along the damp ground. As they reached the stone fort, they found any bits of metal to aid their journey as they fanned out and spead across the entire structure. They snaked their way better stones, up walls, across the ceiling, until they found the zatia. 

“There,” said Maite, standing up. “It’s in the center.”

She approached the door, two massive wooden structures hanging in front of her, keeping her from bringing Kepa back. She placed her palms on the doors and let out an electric discharge. She squealed as the electricity jumped back at her, almost knocking her over. 

She shook her head as she wiped her brow. “The wood is insulating,” she muttered to herself in disappointment. She looked down at her fingers. Blisters were starting to form on her fingertips. 

“Humans are always rash, never thinking ahead, never evaluating the situation,” rumbled Garuna.

“Isilik!” she barked out loud in a voice full of anger and frustration. “Shut up!”

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: Ignacio Berriochoa, Stonemason of Shoshone, Idaho

The Basque men and women who came to the American West typically came because of the sheepherding industry. However, they often had other, even greater, impact on their local communities. One example is Ignacio Berriochoa who settled in southern Idaho. He was of course a sheepherder, and a farmer, but his more lasting contributions (besides his family) were the numerous stone buildings he crafted, several of which have been recognized as historic places worthy of preservation and remembrance.

The Galo Aramberri boarding house, built in 1914 by Ignacio Berriochoa. Photo by Tom Young and found on Wikipedia.
  • Ignacio Ygnatil Berriochoa was born on July 31, 1863, in Elorrio, Bizkaia to Jose Maria Berrio Ochoa Aretio-aurtena and Maria Victoriana Alcerreca Arreguia. In 1889, he married Antonia Capistain Uriol, who was also from Bizkaia (though one source says she was born in Zaragoza), born February 14, 1875. They immigrated to the United States in 1904, settling in Idaho.
  • In 1910, they moved to Shoshone, Idaho, which was an important stop for Basques making their way west across the United States. There was at least one boarding house, the Galo Arambarri boarding house, in Shoshone, built in 1913-1914 by Ignacio.
  • Though Ignacio was noted to be a farmer and sheepherder in his obituary, he was also a talented and prolific stonemason. Ignacio built several structures with local lava stone – basalt – that are now recognized for their historic importance, appearing on the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Jose and Gertrude Anasola House, built around 1913; two buildings on Ignacio’s own farm, built in 1920; the JC Penney Company Building in downtown Shoshone, built in 1918; the Denton J. Paul Water Tank, also built in 1918 perhaps with the help of Julian Pagoaga; and the Manuel Silva Barn, built in 1910.
  • Basalt was a common building material used in southern Idaho in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is a hard stone, formed from volcanic activity, and can be found in extrusions throughout the southern part of the state.
  • The buildings on Ignacio’s farm were built in about 1-2 years. He and Antonia had bought the property in 1919, after losing his previous ranch.
  • Together, Ignacio and Antonia had ten children. At the time of his death, on May 17, 1949, he had 32 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Note: there are a lot of different dates online for the events in Ignacio and Antonia’s lives. It is hard to be sure what are the most accurate, but the birth and death dates listed here are those on their gravestone.

Primary sources: Ignacio Berriochoa, Wikipedia; Lava Rock Structures in South Central Idaho thematic group

Remembering Dad by Telling His Stories: Why I Do This

Dad would have turned 79 today. I miss you, dad.

Photo by Lisa Van De Graaff.

I’m often asked why I do this. Why did I start this website? Why do I invest so much time in it? Why is the Basque thing so important to me? For a long time, I didn’t really have a good answer. Maybe because it’s cool? I mean, being Basque is sort of like being part of a special club. A mysterious origin lost to the mists of time. A strange and unique language that even the devil struggled to learn. Long and unprounouncable last names that are full of k’s and tx’s. A people who have been besieged from all sides but somehow managed to maintain their identity over the centuries. Isn’t all of that cool?

As I dwelled upon it more over the years, though, I realized that wasn’t the real reason I created this page and continue to maintain it. The real reason was my dad.

I can’t claim that I was overly close to my dad. When I was a kid, we never played catch or kicked a ball. We never talked about girls – he never had any advice for me regarding romance. We never hung out, just the two of us. We never talked about my future, about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I don’t think dad ever really appreciated what going to graduate school and studying physics really meant, where it might lead me. He was just a little flabbergasted that anyone would choose to go to school that long. And the only real advice he ever gave me was to work inside, with an air conditioner, not outside in the hot sun like a jackass like he did.

Photo by Lisa Van De Graaff.

When we were kids, my brothers and I would often go out with dad on his hay runs. He would get one of us up at some ungodly hour – sometimes as early as 3 or 4 in the morning – since he wanted to be at the haystack by dawn to begin loading the truck. I didn’t like getting up that early, but it was one of the few times it was just me and dad. It was the only time we got to sort of hang out together. We didn’t talk much, but we would stop at some convenience store, grab a few sodas and sandwiches. At the haystack, I would help straighten loose bails or tie up the ropes when he was done. It wasn’t much, but it was time, just me and dad.

It took me a while to understand that there was this gulf between me and my dad that was almost insurmountable. We came from different cultures, from different worlds. Growing up in the United States, I was part of a collective experience with my friends and neighbors. We all studied the American Revolution and the Civil War in school. We all knew the rules to football and baseball. We all got excited about the next episode of Knight Rider or The Greatest American Hero (ok, maybe that was just me). But, my dad didn’t have any of that. He couldn’t care less about American football. His sport was boxing. And while he did get into some TV shows – Little House on the Praire or Walker, Texas Ranger – these weren’t the exciting new shows that me and my friends watched. And he didn’t really know much about US history.

Photo by Lisa Van De Graaff.

And what he did know – Euskara, the folksongs of Bizkaia, the history of Goikoetxebarri, the baserri he was born in – he never really shared and so it was foreign to me. When I was a kid, dad worked and tended his garden – he didn’t really have any hobbies. When I was older, after I left for college, dad started making jamón and chorizos – things that came from his upbringing – but by then I was off doing my own thing and I never really got to learn how to do those things from him.

My dad came from a very different cultural context, one that I knew next to nothing about. In the first thirty years he lived in the United States, he went back to the Basque Country maybe twice. And he couldn’t afford to take us.

When I was in college, studying physics at the University of Idaho, I decided to go to the Basque Country myself and learn Euskara. My dad asked me why. Why learn Euskara? Spanish was so much more useful, you could speak it in so many more places. I tried to explain that I wanted to learn Euskara because it was his language, that I wanted to learn more about his culture. I think he understood, but if he did, he never really said so. But, even more than learning some of his language and culture, I got to meet his family, I got to meet the aunts and uncles I never knew, I even got to meet my amuma for the first time. I stayed in the baserri – Goikoetxebarri – where he grew up. I started getting to know something about where dad came from.

After I got back and started grad school at the University of Washington, I decided what I had learned about the Basque language, culture, and people was cool, and I wanted to share it, so I created this page. I quickly made a lot of new friends, people in the Basque Country who were eager to share their culture with the rest of the world. And it was a way for me to build even stronger connections to the Basque Country, to learn something beyond the things I could read in the admittedly few books I could find in English, most of which focused on history or the pastoral life of the Basque sheepherder in America. None of those books talked about the Basque Country as it is today. I learned about bands like Negu Gorriak and Su Ta Gar. I learned about the unique policies of Athletic Bilbao. I saw the Guggenheim. I learned about the complex political history of the Basques. And I learned about the land my dad came from.

Ironically, I learned about a Basque Country that my dad didn’t really know. Much had changed in the decades since he left the Basque Country. The music was different. The language itself was different. While the baserri was still an important part of Basque cultural identity, the direct connections to it were different, more remote. Just as many baserri had become luxury dwellings as they were the ancient centers of family that my dad grew up in. Once, when we were all driving somewhere in dad’s big pickup truck, I had him pop in a cassette of Negu Gorriak. Normally, he just ignored the loud noise that I played from the speakers, but this time, he understood some of the lyrics. And it was the first time he said something like “What the hell is this?”

Even though the Basque Country I got to know had changed a lot from the Basque Country my dad grew up in, it still gave me a touch stone. More importantly, I got to know some of the names of the people he grew up with. The names of the other baserriak and barrios. I slowly began to recognize the names and places he would throw out in the stories he started telling. And when I took him to the Basque Country, just him and me, I was able to start putting things together.

Back in 1997, my dad had a heart transplant. We were lucky that Washington has a great med school and I was living in Seattle, getting my PhD, so mom and dad could live with me for a time. And, after dad’s surgery, he still had to come back up for appointments, and he would crash with me. I didn’t really take advantage of having dad around as much as I should have, but I was still able to spend time with him, often in the kitchen, as he started cooking more and hanging out with some of the Basque friends I had made. We weren’t playing catch or anything like that, but we finally got some time to just hang out.

On one drive, up from Nevada back to Idaho, I got my dad (at the suggestion of my wife Lisa) to start talking about his childhood. And I recorded it. He would throw out names of people, baserri, and towns as if I should know them all, and I was pleasantly surprised that I did know at least some of them. I knew who this lady was, or where that town was. A lot of names still escaped me, but I knew a lot more than I would have guessed. And I could ask him questions about these people and places, at least some of them, because I knew who and what they were.

Photo by Lisa Van De Graaff.

In the end, this page and all of the things I’ve learned over the years working on it, all of the people I’ve gotten to know through it, all gave me some connection to my dad that I would never have had otherwise. I like to pretend that I got to know him a little better by getting to know the Basque Country, that maybe I understand a little more where he came from and the circumstances and culture that made him the man I knew. This page is my way of honoring my dad and keeping him alive.

So, yeah, it’s cool to be Basque, but it’s even cooler getting to know my dad better.

Goian bego, aita. I miss you.

Thanks to Lisa Van De Graaff for encouraging me to record dad and his stories when I could. Lisa took the photo at the top.

Basque Fact of the Week: Operations Kangaroo and Martha Brought Basques to Australia

Basques looking for opportunity traveled throughout the world. Many landed in the Americas but more than a few made their way to Australia, encourage by informal government initiatives between Spain and Australia to work in the sugarcane fields. But these lonely men desired companionship, so a second plan was hatched to bring “young, attractive, and single” women to the continent. Though it was a hard and lonely life, many of these Basques established a new community in this far-away land.

The only chances “Martas” would have to socialize was at mass. Photo from SBS.
  • Basques, typically from Hegoalde rather than Iparralde, first arrived in Australia in maybe the 1910s. There is a story that some merchants from Lekeitio abandoned their ship in Sydney to work in the lucrative sugarcane industry. However they first got there, some Basques saved and bought their own sugarcane properties. These Basques would sponsor family members to come to Australia and this was the nucleus of the Basque-Australian community.
  • However, after the Great Depression, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, Basque immigration to Australia essentially stopped. The sugarcane industry took a hit as there was no new labor force arriving for the hard work of working in the fields. To help recruit new Basques to the area, people like Alberto Urberuaga were sent back to their native lands to find more Basques to come to Australia.
  • In informal agreements with the Spanish government (at the time, Australia and Spain didn’t have formal diplomatic ties), Basques and other Spanish citizens were recruited to Australia. The first group that came as part of Operation Kangaroo arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, aboard the SS Toscana, on August 9, 1958. In total, these “operations” – Emu, Eucalyptus, and Kangaroo – brought some 700 men from northern Spain to northern Queensland as sugarcane cutters.
  • There was then a concern that these men, mostly single, were lonely and even suicidal. Thus, a second agreement was arranged between Australia and Spain to bring single women. Plan Martha, or Operation Martha, brought 7 groups of women to Australia. The first contingent of 18 women arrived on March 10, 1960, on what became known as the “brides’ plane.” Between 1960 and 1963, about 300 (one source says 700) young women immigrated to Australia through Plan Martha. While told they were coming to work as domestic servants, the real goal was to balance the genders in the Basque/Spanish population – they were selected on the criteria of being “young, attractive and single.” The women were met by crowds of young Basque and Spanish men looking for a bride. Many felt they had been deceived, promised a land of opportunity but finding a backwards place where they couldn’t even go out for a coffee.
  • These women were at the heart of a local scandal. There were news reports that some of the women were working at a vineyard, picking grapes in the nude to escape the heat. While the story was debunked, it rose to enough of a story that the Consul-General for Spain in Australia was brought in to investigate.
  • From these beginnings in the sugarcane fields, Basques spread to other parts of Australia and other parts of the Australian economy. They formed clubs in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Primary sources: Douglass, William Anthony. Vascos en Australia. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Plan Martha, Wikipedia; Operation Kangaroo, Wikipedia; ‘The flight of the brides’: 60 years on from the one-way ticket from Spain that changed Australian migration, SBS

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 153

Maite walked down the middle of the cobbled street, oblivious to everything around her. Miniature lightning bolts flashed from her eyes. Her fingers sparked with electricity but she barely felt it. Her heart was numb. She thought seeing Kepa die once would be the hardest thing she would ever experience. She was wrong.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa 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!

A French soldier burst onto the street in front of her, his rifle raised but shaking in his hands as he yelled. “Arrête, sorcière!” Maite kept walking as if the man – perhaps, maybe no more than a boy – wasn’t there. Sweat poured down his brow as he pulled the trigger. The musket made a loud bang and a cloud of smoke as the musket ball flew from the mouth of the rifle toward Maite’s chest. Maite kept walking as the ball approached, disintegrating as it hit the electric field surrounding her. And stil she kept walking. The young man screamed as he frantically tried to reload his musket, pulling out his powder horn. But Maite simply walked on by. The boy turned and yelled “Arrête!” one more time. Maite turned, the expression on her face never changing, as she touched the boy’s cheek. A shock of electricity poured from her arm through her finger and into the boy. His body fell to the ground, stunned. 

Garuna’s voice echoed in the back of her head. “The logical thing would be to eliminate him.”

Though Maite had just lost her lover, and she knew that killing this boy would be temporary at best, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She shook her head. “Ez,” she whispered, more to herself than to Garuna.

“And this is why you humans will eventually fade away,” said Garuna. “You do not possess the ability to do the necessary. You are illogical.”

Maite forgot about Garuna as more soldiers, maybe five, appeared in front of her. These did not hesitate to fire and soon the street was filled by the stench of burnt gunpowder. Musket balls whistled through the air at her only to explode as they hit her body, the electric aura protecting her from any damage. Still she walked, her steps taking her by the cowering soldiers. At least one dropped his musket and ran. Another attempted to grab her hand and screamed as an electrical pulse swept through his body. 

“They cannot harm me,” said Maite. “There is no need to kill them.”

“They will not stop until you do,” replied Garuna.

Maite shrugged. “And so?”

Maite continued on a rocky path that led up the side of Mount Urgull. She could hear a larger contingent of soldiers behind her, their excited chatter reaching her ears. Every once in a while a musket ball would fly through the air. Most missed by a wide margin, smashing into a tree or ricocheting off a rock, but once in a while one would be true. She could feel the pop against her skin, as it shattered against her, but she simply ignored them. They weren’t hitting hard enough to leave a bruise, much less do any real damage. 

Within minutes, she was at the top of the mount. In front of her stood walls of an old fort. She stopped to look around. In the bay, large ships rested, their canons eerily silent at the moment. She half expected swarms of British and Portuguese to flow from the ships but no one came. She saw the city, smoke swirling from some of the buildings that had been bombarded the night before. While much was different from the city she was about to call home, there was still much that was familiar. She almost smiled when she realized there was no McDonald’s nor Starbucks in sight. But, the musket balls that began pelting her body brought her back to the present. 

Maite turned to see maybe twenty or more soldiers at the edge of the clearing. They were shouting at her and each other in French. Muskets fired and balls burst as they neared her. She knelt down and touched the ground with her finger. A burst of electricity spread through the wet earth in an instant, finding the soldiers and snaking up their bodies, which convulsed briefly before falling to the ground. The few soldiers who had been in the back and standing on rock, and thus insulated against the shock, dropped their muskets and fled down the hill.

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: Monica Bertagnolli, Granddaughter of Basque Immigrants, Nominated to Lead NIH

On May 15, 2023, President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to head the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world. Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination is notable because, if confirmed, she would be only the second woman to lead the NIH. Dr. Bertagnolli is the granddaughter of Basque immigrants from Nafarroa Beherea who settled in rural Wyoming in the early 1900s to raise sheep and cattle.

Monica Bertagnolli, MD; photo from NIH.
  • Dr. Monica Bertagnolli was born in 1959 in Wyoming. Her parents, John and Elizabeth Bertagnolli, were of Italian and Basque descent, respectively. Dr. Bertagnolli was raised on a cattle ranch – the White Acorn Ranch – near Boulder, Wyoming. She got her undergraduate degree in biochemical engineering at Princeton University before studying medicine at the University of Utah.
  • Over her career, Dr. Bertagnolli has established herself as an expert in treating cancers. She is also an advocate for rural health care. In 1999, she joined the Harvard Medical School and became Chief of Surgical Oncology at the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute in 2007. She has received numerous recognitions for her work, including being elected to the National Academy of Medicine and appointed to the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society.
  • In 2022, Dr. Bertagnolli was confirmed as Director of the National Cancer Institute. If she is confirmed as Director of the National Institutes of Health, she would be the second woman to lead that institution. She was the first woman to head the National Cancer Institute.
  • Her mother, Elizabeth Jean Bertagnolli (nee Carricaburu), was born on February 6, 1936, in Rock Springs, Wyoming. She obtained her nursing degree from St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Denver.
  • Her aunt, Josephine Marie Jauregui, was a strong advocate for the Basque culture. A fixture of the Alkartasuna Basque Club in Rock Springs, Josephine would share her knowledge of all things Basque to any who would listen.
  • Elizabeth’s parents were Gaston and Mary Carricaburu (nee Larre). Gaston was born in 1904 in Banka, Nafarroa Beherea in a region known as Kintoa, a pasture area that has been long disputed between France and Spain. Mary, born in 1910, was from nearby Baigorri, also in Nafarroa Beherea. Carricaburu – Karrikaburu in modern spelling – means something like crossroads or intersection.

Primary sources: Monica Bertagnolli, Wikipedia; U alum Monica Bertagnolli nominated as director of NIH, University of Utah; President Biden Announces Intent to Nominate Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as Director of the National Institutes of Health, The White House; Biden Nominates Rock Springs Native, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, To Lead National Institutes of Health, Cowboy State Daily

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